Woman gets prison time for swindling Palatine man out of $4 million in sweepstakes scam
A woman charged with swindling an elderly Palatine out of millions of dollars over the past several years will spend the next five years in federal prison.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Corrine Dziesiuta was sentenced on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin.
Federal court documents indicate a case against Dziesiuta was opened in New York in October 2016, but it quickly transferred to Illinois for prosecution.
A criminal complaint filed that month says Dziesiuta, posing as someone named Lisa Conti, convinced an 87-year-old Palatine man in May 2010 that he won millions of dollars through a sweepstakes.
The man, identified in court documents as Victim A, was in turn told he needed to pay various insurance, taxes and other fees to redeem his prize money from foreign counties, according to the complaint.
Over the next nearly six years, Dziesiuta duped the man into wire transferring more than $4 million to banks in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the complaint says.
Dziesiuta was charged with one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. She pleaded guilty to one of the wire fraud counts, while the other two were dismissed as part of a plea agreement reached in the case, according to a plea deal filed in August.
In the plea deal, Dziesiuta acknowledged that the total amount of restitution owed to the man would be $4,116,571.35, minus any funds repaid before her sentencing hearing.
As part of the scheme, the man received a letter in January 2015 from a fictitious U.S. senator assuring him the government was protecting him from being victimized, the criminal complaint says. The letter also informed the man he had to pay $386,000 to re-register an insurance policy meant to protect his net worth of $600 million, according to the complaint. Dziesiuta later admitted to the FBI to drafting the letter.
The FBI began working with the victim in May 2016 and recorded 27 calls between him and the woman, the complaint says.
At the direction of the FBI, the victim told the woman he would only provide additional funds in person, according to the complaint. When she hit him with another payment of more than $3.7 million, she told him he'd been booked to travel to New York to deliver her a cashier's check, the complaint says.
The man stayed in Palatine, but the FBI met up with Dziesiuta at LaGuardia Airport.
According to the complaint, she told the FBI she moved to Costa Rica with her husband and two kids in approximately 2010 and began working for an English-speaker call center that had her communicating with the Palatine victim, among others. She said she made $100 per week at first, followed by $1,500 per month, and eventually 10 percent of whatever funds she convinced the victim to transfer, the complaint says.
Dziesiuta faced spending up to 20 years in prison for the crime.