NORTH LAUDERDALE, FL – Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives are warning residents to beware of sweepstakes scams that promise winners a grand prize payoff if they first pay the taxes on their winnings in order to claim their prize. On Wednesday, March 3, Broward Sheriff’s Office and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) detectives made an arrest in an investigation into a Publishers Clearing House (PCH) scam.
In October 2020, SCSO detectives initiated an investigation regarding a PCH scam involving an elderly victim who was defrauded out of approximately $63,000. During their investigation, detectives identified at least 17 additional elderly victims throughout the country being defrauded. The combined amount of funds scammed from elderly victims is estimated to be approximately $300,000.
Preliminary investigation led detectives to the suspect, identified as Donte Johnson, 25, of Plantation, who opened various fraudulent bank accounts as an avenue to receive the funds he scammed from his victims. During the investigation, detectives learned that Johnson’s residence was in the City of Plantation and obtained a search warrant for the residence and an arrest warrant for Johnson.
On March 3, detectives with Broward Sheriff’s Office and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office executed the search warrant with the assistance of the Plantation Police Department’s SWAT team. During the search, detectives arrested Johnson and confiscated more than $17,000 in cash, ammunition, four firearms, one stolen firearm out of Georgia as well as paperwork and electronic devices related to the ongoing fraud investigation.
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Johnson was booked into Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Main Jail on charges of criminal use of personal information, bank fraud and grand theft of a firearm. Johnson has since been released on bond. The investigation in ongoing.
Anyone who believes they were a victim of this scam is asked to call Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Organized Crime Unit detectives at 954-888-1581. According to the PCH website, winners will never have to pay taxes, fees or any costs associated with the sweepstakes in order to claim a prize.