Two women are facing prison time for convincing an 88-year-old woman to withdraw more than $10,000 from her bank account last August, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
Juanita Lamb, 58, of New Jersey and Deanna Rhett, 60, of Manhattan were responsible for the “found money” scheme, where they convinced the victim that they found $100,000 and would split the money with her if she paid the taxes on it.
On Aug. 1 at about 1:30 p.m., a third perpetrator approached the 88-year-old woman at the intersection of 77th Street and 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights, the criminal complaint said. As the women spoke, Rhett approached them and showed the victim a bag filled with what looked like $100,000 in cash. Once the victim agreed to pay taxes on the cash in exchange for some of it, Lamb pulled up in a Buick to drive her home.
The women made a plan to meet up again and drive the victim to a bank to retrieve the money. On Aug. 3, the three defendants picked up the victim from her house and drove her to a Queens County Bank. She took out $10,300 in cash and went back to the car, where she handed the money to Rhett.
The victim was driven home and told to retrieve proof of her address to pay taxes. By the time she came back outside, the women had driven away.
The NYPD’s Theft Squad stopped the women as they were driving away and found $3,100 from the floor of the driver’s seat, another $4,100 on the floor of the front passenger seat and $3,100 from the third defendant’s waistband.
Officials also found wigs in various colors and numerous pieces of paper that appeared to be $100 bills but contained the phrase, “for theatrical use.”
“These two women – admitted con artists – approached an elderly woman on the streets of Queens and bilked her out of more than $10,000 using a variation of the ‘found money’ scam,” Brown said. “The defendants approached their victim with a purse full of money – which in reality was just ‘theatrical money’ – and claimed they had ‘found’ the cash and offered to share the windfall with her if she helped them pay the taxes on the bag of cash. The defendants in this case each pleaded guilty to a felony and will be incarcerated for their crime.”
Lamb pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal possession of stolen property on Nov. 17, 2016, and was sentenced to 2 ½ to five years in prison.
On Oct. 27, 2016, Rhett also pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny and was sentenced to two to four years in prison on Dec. 1, 2016. Both defendants were also sentenced to years of post release supervision.
The case against a third defendant is pending.