Lottery scam targeting elderly rakes in $186,000

- Hillsborough County detectives say a trio of criminals preyed on senior citizens, specifically, Hispanic females.

Investigators say they convinced victims they had winning lottery tickets but needed some cash up-front to claim the winnings since they were in the country illegally.

At least a dozen fell for it, handing over more than $186,000 in cash and jewelry.

"Some victims lost $2,000. Some victims lost $40,000," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrested Jhon Figueroa and Siomara Jimenez. There is a warrant out for the arrest of Marino Jimenez Quintana.

All face charges for their alleged roles in scamming 10 people in Hillsborough County, one person Polk County, and one person in Lake County.

"They took advantage of mostly Hispanic females because they figured they would empathize with their situation the most," Chronister said.

Investigators say they got away with $152,034 in cash and $34,400 in jewelry offered by victims who didn't have cash.

Maria Lebron of Town 'n' Country was one of their victims. Lebron was shopping at Fresco y Mas on Sheldon Road when she was approached by a woman claiming she had a winning lotto ticket.

The woman said she was on deportation orders from ICE, and because of that, needed help claiming the large prize.

The woman wasn't the only one there to scam the victim. Another man joined the conversation and there was even someone ready to answer the phone and pretend to be an official with the Florida lottery, all in an effort to make the victim believe it was real.

Maria said she couldn't help because her son was in the hospital and she needed to get back.

Eventually, however, she gave in, going with them to her bank to withdraw $5,000 that could be used as collateral to claim the winnings, under the impression she'd get several thousand in return.

They returned to the store.

Maria got into the car to follow the man and woman so they could split their winnings but a second vehicle blocked her in and, by the time they drove off, the man and woman were long gone.

After what she's been through, Maria no longer wants to go out. She has a hard time trusting people.

Now, she doesn't want to leave her home. The painful incident plays over and over in her mind like a movie each night.

"No quiero salir ," Lebron said. "En la noche, yo veo la pelicula."

Attorney General Pam Bondi believes there are more victims out there who are afraid to speak up.

"Do not be frightened to come forward because of your immigration status," Bondi said. "You will be protected because you are a victim."

"To our Hispanic community, I plead to you, don't fall victim to this scam," Chronister said. "Hear this loud and clear: There are people out there that are going to take advantage of you because of your innocence and your big heart."

Jhon Figueroa was arrested on June 12 and Siomara Jimenez was arrested on May 24. Both were booked into the Orient Road Jail and face 35 charges, combined.

Both have since bonded out and have been released.

Marino Jimenez Quintana has an active warrant for his arrest with 13 separate charges. His last known address was in Kissimmee.

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