Three Charged in Sweepstakes Fraud Scheme That Used Hamptons-Based Bank Accounts
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging 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.1 Ana P. Leon was arrested earlier today and her initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke at the United States Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip, New York. Sandra E. Leon and Pelaez are currently at large.
The charges were announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
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 Suffolk County’s East Hampton and Amagansett or to bank accounts that the defendants established, which had mailing addresses in East Hampton, Amagansett, Hampton Bays, and Manhattan. Victims sent more than $695,000 by mail or wire transfers, some of which was withdrawn as cash in ATM transactions or used to pay for personal expenses such as airline tickets.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,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie. “We are committed to protecting seniors from such schemes.” Mr. Currie expressed his appreciation to FBI field offices in New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Wisconsin for their assistance.
“As alleged, the defendants took advantage of seniors by claiming they had literally hit the jackpot by winning a cash prize, often as much as $3.5 million, with the stipulation they just had to pay supposed taxes and fees. The senior victims were directed to wire money or send checks only to never see the winnings they were promised. The money the victims paid netted the defendants more than a half a million dollars. The FBI is committed to investigating and bringing to justice those who seek to profit at the expense of defrauding the senior community,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorney Bradley T. King is in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor is handling matters related to forfeiture.
ANA P. LEON
East Hampton, NY
SANDRA E. LEON
Hampton Bays, NY
IVAN D. PELAEZ
East Hampton, NY
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-M-922 (SIL)
1 The charges in the complaint are merely allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.