A 64-year-old woman, Lorraine Chalavoutis, Greenlawn, New York, conspired with her primary partners, Shaun Sullivan and Tully Lovisa to defraud thousands of people across America. She used easy-to-obtain consumer lists to write personalized letters from a company offering big cash prizes in return for a small fee.
Chalavoutis went to great lengths to hide her and her partner's identities behind shell companies owned by a person legally on behalf of someone else or who gives the appearance of owning a property. The legally named owner might take a fee in return for hiding the identity of the effective owner.
Court documents reveal the scam operated from December 2010 to July 2016.
None of the victims received any substantial prizes. Chalavoutis, Sullivan, and Lovisa all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and await sentencing. Several other defendants have also pleaded guilty to the same charges in separate cases.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said:
“Those who knowingly facilitate fraud schemes, including individuals who play administrative roles in setting up and maintaining the criminal operations, bear responsibility for the harm caused to victims.”
It would be easy to blame greed for sending off a modest fee when told you have won thousands, maybe millions. But Chalavoutis duped people into giving her their money by making them think they had won a cash prize and could come and collect it.
Criminals who seek to steal money from elderly and vulnerable community members may also affect the victims' independence.
I'm not elderly or vulnerable but I know how easy it is to fall for something that looks official on the surface. Especially, if it involves an iPhone 12 Pro, you know something desirable, it doesn't matter what. Thieves and scammers know how to help themselves to our money. We have to be smarter.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately, thieves are smart and they'll make whatever their latest confidence trick is sound fair.
Next time you get an offer that smells a bit fishy, you might like to check out Common Scams and Frauds. Or if you know folks who don't use the internet suggest they call you or someone who can check it for them.
Better safe than sorry.
Thankfully The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case and trial attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York worked together to bring to justice the people who hunt for the easiest prey.
The ringleader faces up to 20 years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2022.
The United States of America Justice Department Office of Public Affairs News press release dated, Monday, July 12, 2021.
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