Scammer gets 70 months in federal prison

TUCSON — The man who scammed a Benson woman out of $74,000 has been sentenced to more than five years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins sentenced Joseph Andre Batts, 44, to 70 months in federal prison after Batts pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Batts was part of a Jamaica-based group of scammers who would tell victims they had won the lottery or other prize, but to claim their winnings they must first remit funds to “pay for taxes and fees.”

An 87-year-old Benson woman fell victim to the scam, believing she won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

E-mails, purportedly from the U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service instructed her to overnight $40,000 in cash to Orlando, Fla., $20,000 in cash via UPS, wire money via Western Union and also deposit money in several accounts at Bank of America.

The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations-Tucson Office, U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Diplomatic Security Service, conducted the investigation in this case. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.