Attorney General Andy Beshear today announced the arrest and guilty plea of a con artist who pretended to be a Publishers Clearing House employee in order to scam a Jefferson County resident out of thousands of dollars.
Michael Rhoden, 28, of Mount Vernon, New York, pleaded guilty in Jefferson Circuit Court to one count of criminal attempt theft by unlawful taking over $500, a Class A misdemeanor, and was ordered to repay the victim $20,000.
“Thanks to the hard work of our investigator, we were able to complete the often difficult task of catching and stopping a con artist,” Beshear said. “We appreciate the support received from the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office for helping us bring justice to the victim. Kentuckians who receive calls saying they have won a lottery should know that if they are asked to pay upfront to collect the winnings – it is a scam.”
The charges follow an investigation into Rhoden by the Office of the Attorney General after the office received complaints regarding December 2016 scam calls.
An investigator with Beshear’s office found that a Louisville resident received fraudulent phone calls claiming she had won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and was asked to send checks to cover the cost of lottery winning expenses. The victim then sent thousands of dollars in cash and checks to a bank account in New York created and controlled by the defendant.
Surveillance photos obtained showed the defendant withdrawing the victim’s money from an ATM in New York affiliated with his bank account, Beshear said.
As part of the plea agreement, Rhoden also agreed to serve a 10-day sentence and repay the victim. The Office of the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney handled the prosecution of the case.
Beshear’s office has previously warned Kentuckians about reports of Publishers Clearing House scams. Beshear said lottery scams are a popular choice for con artists and account for more than $63,000 in reported losses for Kentucky families last year.
Beshear said he has made preventing scams and prosecuting con artists one of the top priorities because scams and fraud impact far too many Kentucky families, especially senior citizens.
In January, Beshear and AARP Kentucky launched Mission Veterans Protected, which aims to reverse the high rate of veterans, service members and military families being targeted and falling victim to scams. Military personnel may visit ag.ky.gov/veterans to learn how to avoid the top 10 most common veteran-specific scams.
Upon taking office, Beshear and his Office of Senior Protection and Mediation launched Scam Alerts, the state’s first direct text message and email alert system, which notifies Kentuckians when new and trending scams are reporting in Kentucky. Kentuckians interested in receiving Scam Alerts can text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311), or visit ag.ky.gov/scams to sign up with your mobile phone number or email address.
Kentucky residents who want to report a consumer complaint should call the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office at 888-432-9257 or visit the website.