Cops & Crime

FBI Charges Three Hamptons Residents in Sweepstakes Fraud Scheme

A criminal complaint was unsealed Tuesday in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging three Hamptons residents—Ana P. Leon, also known as Ana P. Gonzalez, Sandra E. Leon, also known as Sandra E. Chavarria, and Ivan D. Pelaez—with mail and wire fraud and conspiring to commit those offenses.

Ana P. Leon was arrested Tuesday while the FBI is still pursuing Sandra E. Leon and Pelaez.

The charges were announced by Kelly T. Currie, the acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego G. Rodriguez, the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office.

According to the criminal complaint, the three defendants participated in a scheme in which seven elderly victims from across the United States were told that they had won large cash prizes, often as much as $3.5 million, in a purported sweepstakes. In some instances, the victims were informed by phone and letter that these sweepstakes were operated by federal government agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office. Victims were directed to send check or wire transfers that would supposedly cover taxes and fees due on the sweepstakes winnings to post office boxes that one of the defendants established in East Hampton and Amagansett or to bank accounts that the defendants established, which had mailing addresses in East Hampton, Amagansett, Hampton Bays and Manhattan, according to the FBI. Victims sent more than $695,000 by mail or wire transfers, some of which was withdrawn as cash in ATM transactions or used to pay for personal expenses such as airline tickets.

“As described in the complaint, the defendants enriched themselves by taking advantage of elderly Americans,” Currie said. “We are committed to protecting seniors from such schemes.”

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