FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 27, 2017
Woman and Two Men Indicted for Posing as Law Enforcement and
Stealing $50,000 from Chat Line Caller in Blackmail Scheme
Allegedly Told “Lavalife” Customer he Chatted with Underage Girl;
Mastermind Orchestrated Scam while Incarcerated on Similar Charges
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a woman and two men from Brooklyn have been indicted in connection with a scheme to extort money from a caller to a telephone chat line for singles by posing as NYPD detectives and an Assistant District Attorney. The defendants allegedly called the victim shortly after he chatted with a woman, identified themselves as police detectives and told the victim he was in trouble for talking to an underage girl. They allegedly also placed calls from the purported girl’s mother and from a phony prosecutor while demanding payments – which eventually amounted to over $50,000 – in exchange for not arresting him.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly scammed an unwitting victim out of his retirement savings by posing as law enforcement officials. We are determined to put an end to these types of disgraceful schemes that prey on people’s potential embarrassment and unfamiliarity with the legal system. There may be more victims out there and so I am asking anyone who believes they have been similarly targeted to come forward by calling the DA’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendants as Magdalena Nixon, 42, formerly of Crown Heights, Sandy DeWalt, 53, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Randy Jones, 49, of Brownsville. Nixon and DeWalt were arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Hecht on an indictment in which they are charged with two counts of second-degree grand larceny, three counts of second-degree coercion and one count of first-degree criminal impersonation. Jones was arraigned on the same indictment on Monday. The defendants were ordered to return to court on December 13, 2017. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the top count.
The Acting District Attorney said that the scheme involved the telephone chat line “Lavalife Voice.” Callers to that line hear a recorded message the recites terms and conditions of using the service, including a requirement that participants are over 18 years of age. They are then allowed to create a profile before connecting to other singles who are on the line and might want to chat. The defendants allegedly targeted victims by setting up a profile on the chat line, which they used to “meet” male callers and obtain their phone numbers.
It is alleged that the defendants targeted a 65-year-old Queens man who used “Lavalife” on a number of occasions before July 2015, when he talked to a woman and gave her his home phone number. Shortly after the call ended, a man who identified himself as “Detective Flynch,” from the NYPD precinct in Coney Island, called the victim and told him he had been speaking to an underage girl. The supposed “detective” told the victim that he would be arrested unless he paid various ill-defined legal fees, including a settlement to the supposed girl’s mother and the cost of “therapy” for the girl. The victim also spoke to a woman who claimed to be the girl’s mother, and agreed to accept $10,000 in exchange for a release saying she would not press charges, the investigation found.
The victim was instructed to wire payments to the fictional girl’s mother, who identified herself as “Sandy DeWalt,” and on other occasions to send money to “Randy Jones.” The evidence shows that the “mother” was Nixon and the “detectives” were Jones and Nixon’s boyfriend, DeWalt.
It is further alleged that over the following months, the victim sent $10,000, in increments, to DeWalt and Jones via Western Union and MoneyGram. He would hear regularly from “Detective Flynch,” “Detective Fletcher,” or “Detective Fletcher’s partner,” as well as from the “girl’s mother,” who provided various explanations as to why she needed more money, such as her having to miss work due to her daughter’s “therapy.” When the victim balked, the “detectives” threatened in harsh terms to expose and arrest him.
At some point, the investigation found, the phony detective began telling the victim that he had to pay court fees and costs to avoid prosecution. The victim also started getting calls from a purported female prosecutor who identified herself as “ADA Sheryl McKenzie.” That was the same name Nixon used in a previous, similar scheme for which she was convicted in 2015, and received a prison sentence of two to four years. Nixon was incarcerated on that case during the present scheme but allegedly orchestrated it from behind bars, giving detailed instructions to her alleged cohorts on what to say on the calls and how to collect the funds.
The victim continued to receive threatening calls and make payments, sending a total of approximately $50,000, until October 2016, when the fake “detective” happened to say that he worked in the 109th Precinct, in the Bronx. The already-suspicious victim, who knew the 109th Precinct is actually in Queens, then changed his phone number and filed a police report.
The case was investigated by Detective Christopher Caesar, of the NYPD’s Police Impersonations Investigation Unit, under the supervision of Sergeant Dale Persaud.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kurtz, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michael Spanakos, Chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.