17 August 2023- Attorney General Michelle Henry announced collaboration with Pennsylvania State Police that resulted in arrests of scammers in two separate plots to defraud and steal from older Pennsylvanians.
The scams involved a Publisher’s Clearinghouse ruse, which cost a Montgomery resident $130,000, and an “anti-virus” online scam — requesting $15,000 from a Lehigh County resident — that was interrupted by law enforcement agents.
Jaime Barham, 25, and Francis Rohan, 24, of Bronx, N.Y., were charged with corrupt organizations, criminal use of a communication facility, and theft charges, regarding the Montgomery County case. Each is incarcerated on $75,000 bail.
Qiang Li, of Rye, N.Y., is charged with criminal conspiracy to corrupt organizations, computer trespass, and unlawful use of a computer, and theft charges in the Lehigh County case. Li is free on $50,000 bail.
“Scams against older Pennsylvanians are particularly devastating because many victims are living on fixed incomes and their life savings,” Attorney General Henry said. “These alleged scammers acted with deliberate intent to defraud their victims of significant amounts of money without consideration of the resulting financial distress. My office encourages friends and family to discuss potential risks with their loved ones.”
Pennsylvania State Police filed charges in recent weeks.
“The Pennsylvania State Police works diligently with our law enforcement partners to protect older Pennsylvanians,” said Colonel Christopher Paris, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “We want scammers to know that our investigators will work diligently to bring them to justice, and these arrests are examples of that.”
In the Montgomery County sweepstakes scam, the defendants directed the victim to send cash and gift cards, which they did.
In the Lehigh County case, the defendant caused a pop-up to appear on the victim’s computer screen, purportedly from an anti-virus company. The defendant then took over the victim’s computer to obtain personal information and informed the victim they owed $15,000 regarding the “anti-virus” program. Undercover agents intervened in the exchange of cash, at a grocery store parking lot.
The Office of Attorney General offers this guidance to older Pennsylvanians, their families, and anyone else targeted for solicitation:
- Never send money or gift cards to someone you do not know. Also, gift cards are for gifts, not for paying debts or bills.
- If you are suspicious or have concerns about a solicitation, call your local police or the OAG hotline at 800-441-2555.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “Sweepstakes” scams have been common for years, so be vigilant and use common sense. If you did not sign up for a sweepstakes, you could not have won.
- Sign up for scam warning text alerts from the Office of Attorney General. Mobile carrier rates may apply.
The Office of Attorney General recommends an acronym to evaluate unsolicited phone calls or emails:
S: Sudden – The call or email is unexpected;
C: Contact – Scammers will contact you by phone, email or in-person;
A: Act Now – The request will be urgent and assert penalties if you do not act quickly;
M: Money or Information – The scammer will request money or personal information.
In addition to signing up for text alerts, Pennsylvanians who believe they have been victims of a scam should file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 800-441-2555 or emailing email@example.com.