Lakewood, NJ – A Lakewood yeshiva student who masterminded a sweepstakes scam has been caught, police said, but the Clifton senior citizen who fell victim to the con is still out $35,700.
On May 30, a 78-year-old Clifton resident came into police headquarters to report that he had been the victim of a sweepstakes fraud, police Detective Capt. Robert Rowan said Thursday.
The man said that on May 15 he received a call from a man purporting to be a lawyer named Richard Stevens.
Stevens told the victim he was the second-place winner in a sweepstakes and had won $500,000.
To obtain the money, the caller said, he needed to send a security deposit of $8,300 through Federal Express mail to an address in Lakewood.
The man did so, only to receive a call the next day from an individual who identified himself as Stevens.
Stevens told the Clifton man that the grand prize winner turned out not to be an American citizen and that he was now the grand prize winner. But now he needed to send $16,600 more for security in order to obtain the $1 million prize.
The Clifton man complied.
On May 19, the man received another call from Stevens, who said that a mistake had been made and he needed another $5,000. Later, a man called describing himself as a courier and asking that the man send $3,500 to cover the insurance for the winnings and $2,300 to Toronto for additional insurance.
The Clifton man complied on all three counts.
Later in the month, after not receiving any money, he reported the incidents to the police. Clifton Detective Robert Tillie tracked the Federal Express delivery to the Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood.
The yeshiva managers cooperated with investigators, who concluded that the man picking up the packages was E. J., a 23-year-old student at the yeshiva.
Clifton police arrested Mr. J. Wednesday.
“I would take this opportunity to warn people not to send any kind of money to anyone under any circumstances,” said Rowan. “If you won money, you shouldn’t be paying money.”
Rowan said the Clifton department is currently working with Lakewood police and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to see if any of the money can be recovered.