An Albany man is facing federal charges related to an “advance-fee scam” that targeted the elderly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albany said.
Douglas Watson, 30, is accused of receiving a total of $25,000 from targets in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., last year, according to his federal indictment.
The scam involved unidentified callers contacting the residents and telling them they had won the lottery. They only had to pay taxes on their winnings to receive them.
The Pittsfield victim was first contacted in February 2013. Between then and May 2013, the target sent $23,000 via the U.S. Postal Service Express Mail to Watson in Albany, according to the filing.
The target asked for a receipt, prosecutors said, so Watson sent back a false receipt indicting the payments were for auto parts, not “lottery taxes.”
Then, in May 2013, the callers contacted the Washington victim. That victim sent $2,000 to Watson, according to the indictment.
Both targets were contacted by phone and mail.
Watson faces a total of three federal mail-fraud counts, one for each of the victims’ cash payments and one for the fraudulent receipt.
The prosecution is also seeking forfeiture of the $25,000.
Watson appeared in U.S. District Court in Albany Thursday. He was released on a $25,000 secured bond.
If convicted of one count of mail fraud, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations built the case with help from the Pittsfield Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. Attorney Sean O’Dowd.