SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — A South Florida man is accused of scamming an 88-year-old Sarasota man out of $63,000 by pretending to be with Publishers Clearing House.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says 25-year-old Donte Johnson convinced the elderly man to pay "taxes" in advance on sweepstakes the man thought he'd won.
The 88-year-old went ahead and deposited thousands of dollars into two bank accounts. And, authorities say Johnson used the man's identity to withdraw the money.
Family members grew suspicious and reported their concerns to deputies in October 2020.
On Wednesday, authorities with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Plantation Police Department helped serve a search warrant at Johnson's home in Plantation, Florida. There, detectives say they recovered more than $17,000, a stolen gun and multiple electronics.
"Detectives identified at least 17 additional elderly victims and believe there may be others who fell victim to Johnson’s scam," the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office wrote in a news release. "In total, detectives estimate Johnson stole approximately $300,000 from the 17 victims who live in areas all over the country."
He was arrested in Broward County and charged with criminal use of personal identification, bank fraud and grand theft of a firearm. Johnson has since been released, but authorities say additional charges are pending.
“These detectives work hard to protect our most vulnerable populations, but it is on all of us to look out for our elderly, and one another," Sarasota Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman wrote in a statement. "The message here is take caution for both yourself and the ones you love. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Publishers Clearing House's website says no payments, fees or taxes are required to claim or receive legitimate prizes won through its giveaways.
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