FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Brooklyn Woman Indicted For Stealing Approximately $300,000 From 10 Friends and Acquaintances in “Affinity Scam”
Claimed She Needed Loans to Gain Access To Multi-Million Dollar Inheritance
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that a Bedford-Stuyvesant woman has been indicted for stealing approximately $300,000 from friends and acquaintances after telling them she inherited a multi-million dollar estate but needed money to clear encumbrances. She allegedly promised the victims a large return in exchange for the loans.
District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant allegedly ripped off people who trusted her because they all shared a Caribbean heritage. I would strongly urge anyone who is offered a lot of money for an alleged short-term loan to be very wary, as it is often a scam and a sure way to lose your hard-earned savings.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Lurene Elias, a.k.a., Helen Lurene Elias, 48, of Fulton Street, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which she is charged with two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud, three counts of second-degree grand larceny, five counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. The defendant was ordered held on bail of $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash and to return to court on June 24, 2015.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, from December 28, 2010 to May 15, 2013, the defendant stole money from at least 10 people, convincing them to give her money by saying that she had inherited a multi-million dollar estate but needed money to clear various encumbrances such as liens and taxes. She allegedly promised to return the borrowed money with substantial interest in a short time period, sometimes promising to double their money. The victims allegedly gave the defendant varying amounts of cash ranging from $3,000 to $105,000.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, when the victims asked for repayment, the defendant stalled and claimed that she needed more money to clear additional encumbrances and pay various fees and expenses. If they did not have more money, she urged them to reach out to family and friends for financial assistance so the encumbrances could be lifted and everyone could be paid.
To lend credibility to her story, according to the indictment, the defendant provided fraudulent documents to her victims, including an altered bank account statement reflecting a balance in excess of $13 million. Additionally, she signed and gave I.O.U.s or promissory notes to the victims.
The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detectives Gerard Amato and Paulette Simpson, of the District Attorney’s NYPD Squad and Financial Investigator Vincent Jones, of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Maria Leonardi and John Holmes of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief and Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.