(STL.News) – The final defendant in a federal fraud case was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for conning more than a dozen elderly victims out of nearly $200,000 in a scam involving fake lottery tickets.
Tito Lozada, 50, a Colombian national and Los Angeles resident, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered Lozada and his co-defendants to pay $190,422 in restitution. Lozada pleaded guilty on February 24 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
From March 2017 until September 2019, Lozada and his co-defendants rented vehicles under false names and then drove in search of elderly victims – primarily Hispanic women between the ages of 65 and 85 years old. Once a victim was located, a member of the scheme approached her and lied about having a winning lottery ticket that the co-conspirator needed help cashing.
The defendants preyed on their victims’ emotions by claiming the conspirators needed help finding their way home or to a church, or by claiming they were illegally in the United States and needed help finding a lawyer or immigration services. One victim identified Lozada as the thief who stole her money and co-defendant Maria Luisa Henao, 44, a dual citizen of Colombia and the United States, as the suspect who cried as a ploy to lure her into the scheme.
To further deceive the victims, one of the co-conspirators generally telephoned a purported lottery official – actually a cohort – who then “confirmed” the phony lottery ticket was a winner that only could be released by paying a fee or cash deposit.
The defendants general drove victims to their home or bank so they could retrieve jewelry or large sums of cash to pay for the sham lottery ticket deposit. Once the co-conspirator had the victim’s money or jewelry in hand, they used a ruse in order to flee.
Victims were targeted across Southern California, including in the cities of Maywood, Long Beach, Baldwin Park, Hawaiian Gardens, Fontana, Lakewood, San Pedro, Vallejo, Garden Grove, Ontario, Santa Ana and Chula Vista.
In total, Lozada and his co-defendants defrauded at least 16 victims and caused losses of at least $190,422. They also attempted to defraud one additional victim, resulting in a total intended loss of at least $206,422.
Co-defendants Henao; Mercedes Montanez, 76; and Luisa Camargo, 40, pleaded guilty and received prison sentences of 33 months, 27 months, and time served, respectively. Montanez and Camargo are Colombian nationals who were living in Los Angeles at the time of their arrest in this case.
The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anna Farias-Eisner of the General Crimes Section and Ian Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.