September 18th, 2012 – (AP and Inside Costa Rica) - Police in the United States have arrested seven people connected to a Connecticut-based lottery scam that preyed on elderly victims around the United States.
Stamford, Connecticut police say the scam was based in Fairfield County and transferred the proceeds to Costa Rica.
Investigators say they have documented more than $165,000 in losses. Thirty-one victims from across the U.S. have been identified, most of them more than 80 years old.
The victims were contacted by telephone or a letter and told they had won a prize. In order to collect the supposed winnings, they were directed to send money to pay taxes or fees.
A total of nine arrest warrants were issued, including one for the suspected ringleader. Police say that person is at large and may be in Costa Rica.
For more than a decade, North American (and more recently, European) con artists have time and again set up shop in Costa Rica, targeting their fellow countrymen in their home countries with lottery and investment scams. Such illicit call centers in nondescript buildings can be found throughout San Jose. In the case of lottery scams, many victims are asked to send funds via Western Union to Costa Rica.
Costa Rican authorities have began to crack down on these operations after many years of turning a blind eye. Still, employment ads for “fronters” and “closers” to work in phone rooms can be found in English language newspapers here. While not all such phone rooms may be doing something illegal, it is advisable to anyone considering employment at such an operation to fully question and understand what they are being asked to sell in order to avoid becoming part of a scam operation. Even “employees” of such operations can and have faced prosecution both here and abroad.