LANCASTER COUNTY — A Washington woman will serve nine to 23 months in prison followed by three years of probation for her role in an online scam that cost a Lancaster County man more than $17,000, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
Shaunta Powell, 35, of Washington State, was one of the recipients of the victim’s money, prosecutors say. Powell received $5,803 from the victim; she must repay that money as part of the guilty plea she entered in Lancaster County Court.
According to investigators, the victim was contacted by a “friend” via Facebook Messenger about a seniors grant program. The “friend” told the victim she had obtained $90,000 in grant money for a relative and advised the victim to do the same.
The “friend” was a scammer who had hacked a Facebook account, investigators say.
The victim was instructed to send more than $17,000 in “fees” to obtain the grant funds, according to investigators. He sent the money, but never received any grant funds.
Powell was one of the recipients; investigators say she received several wire transactions in Washington state. She was tied to the scam because she provided her personal information when receiving the wire transfers, according to investigators. Police also matched surveillance footage of her receiving the transfers, according to investigators.
“This was an elaborate scam that involved multiple perpetrators and a social media hacking,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. “These crimes are not simple to solve because – as was the case here – the scammers are often out of state or out of country and rarely provide a real name.
“These scams have devastating impact on the victims who are left feeling helpless and financially damaged.”
The victim contacted police in the summer of 2017 after realizing the scam when he saw, in person, the Facebook “friend” who approached him online about the grant. During the scam, the Facebook “friend” referred the victim to an attorney, also via Facebook Messenger; the “attorney” also was a scammer.
Another suspect in the scam, Kelvin Kelly, 40, was charged last year, investigators say. He has been on the lam ever since.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact their local police department.