A Los Angeles man is likely to be sentenced to federal prison Monday for running what prosecutors called a “depraved and cruel” fraud scheme that targeted Latina grandmothers throughout the Southland in a scam involving a fake winning lottery ticket.
Tito Lozada, 50, personally selected elderly women “with particular vulnerabilities” and exploited those weaknesses for his own personal gain, federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. He pleaded guilty in February to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Three additional defendants previously pleaded guilty to the same charge and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from nine to 33 months. They were also found jointly responsible for $190,422 in restitution to victims.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending that Lozada be sentenced to 41 months in prison. The defendant’s lawyer is asking for 27 months based upon Lozada’s lack of a criminal record, and the threat of COVID-19 that inmates face.
Lozada and the others were initially charged in state court with trying to scam a 66-year-old Long Beach woman, but federal prosecutors who took the case contend all four defendants are linked to over a dozen incidents since 2017 in which older women were targeted and robbed of cash and valuables in a scheme known as the “Latin Lotto Scam.”
The October 2019 federal criminal complaint references crimes in Maywood, Long Beach, Baldwin Park, Hawaiian Gardens, Fontana, Lakewood, San Pedro and Chula Vista.
The defendants approached Latina women alone in public who ranged in age from 65 to 85 years old and, speaking Spanish, convinced them that they had a winning lottery ticket but needed help cashing it because they were undocumented. They would then ask the victim for money and promised they would pay her back, including some extra cash, upon cashing in the ticket.
To further con the victim, one of the co-conspirators would pretend to call a lottery official who was, in fact, a member of the plot and would falsely confirm that the fake ticket in question was a winning ticket that could be released only with a deposit or fee.
The defendants then would drive the victim to her home or bank so that she could get valuable items like jewelry or large sums of cash to pay the sham lottery ticket deposit. Once they had the victim’s money or jewelry in hand, the schemers would create a ruse to get the victim out of the car and flee, taking the valuables with them.
The fraud ring attempted to rip off at least four elderly women per day, and were out looking for potential victims for a minimum of four days per week, according to prosecutors, who called the scheme “depraved and cruel.”
In total, over the course of the nearly 2 1/2-year conspiracy, at least 16 victims were defrauded, causing losses of at least $190,422, federal prosecutors said.
“This was an organized group that singled out older women for the sole purpose of ripping off these vulnerable victims with bogus promises of a big payday,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “While law enforcement will do everything possible to bring criminals like this to justice, this case should serve as a reminder to potential victims and their family members that no one should ever pay an upfront fee in relation to any prize, sweepstakes or lottery.”
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