Prosecutors said Wednesday that a husband and wife allegedly scammed about two dozen mostly elderly victims out of more than $300,000, the New York Daily News reports.
“This organization made it a practice to use everyday fixtures like the U.S. Post Office, Publishers Clearing House and the neighborhood shoe store to promote their outrageous criminal schemes,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement.
ABC News New York said the Drug Enforcement Agency uncovered the sweepstakes scheme while investigating the alleged ringleader, Ricardo Castang, for cocaine trafficking.
Victims in 17 states were told they won the sweepstakes but must first pay fees and taxes to receive their winnings. They were directed to mail checks to Castang’s Brooklyn home or to a P.O. Box address. One victim sent Castang and his alleged co-conspirator wife, Linda Altidor, a $60,000 check.
Castang, 35, and Altidor, 30, were charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, ABC reported.
Prosecutors also charged the couple with money laundering. A third defendant, 25-year-old Tiffany Wattley, was also arrested and charged only with money laundering but not the sweepstakes scam.
Castang was already in jail for alleged cocaine trafficking when prosecutors uncovered the sweepstakes scheme. Altidor and Wattley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the money laundering charge.