Feds: CT 'money mule' in romance, lottery scams gets 18 months

Photo of Peter Yankowski
A judge's gavel for the files.

A judge's gavel for the files.

Bjoern Wylezich / TNS

An Ansonia man was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison after authorities claim he served as a “money mule” in lottery and romance rackets.

Montrell Dobbs Jr., 28, also faces three years supervised release at the conclusion of his prison sentence, the Connecticut U.S. attorney’s office said.

Dobbs served as a middle man, picking up checks and cash sent by the scheme’s mostly elderly victims from the Ansonia Post Office, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Dobbs would take his cut and then pass the rest of the money to the others in the conspiracy, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Dobbs appeared before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill via video conference, a press release said.

“In a lottery scam, scammers notify victims by telephone, through online communications, or by mail, that they have won the lottery,” the release said. “The victims are then told that in order to collect the prize, they must pay fees for things like taxes, shipping and processing.”

In romance scams, the victims are people “looking for companionship,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. Scammers use fake dating profiles to lure victims in before asking for money, claiming to need it “for medical or business emergencies, for travel to see the victim, or other purposes,” the release said.

Authorities estimate the scams swindled more than 200 people across the country out of more than $5 million. “Many of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and some victims lost their life savings. One Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million,” the release said.

Dobbs is believed to have been directly involved with at least 25 victims who lost upwards of $85,000, authorities said. He was ordered to pay full restitution.

He was arrested March 12, 2020, and pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering on Dec. 21 last year.

Dobbs is free on $100,000 bond and is due to report to prison June 2. Four others accused of being involved are also awaiting trial, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

To report cases of internet fraud, call 833-372-8311.