For years, lottery scams have been preying on the elderly, scamming senior individuals in the United States and beyond out of billions of dollars each year. For one elderly man suffering with dementia, the weight of the scammers’ financial pressure drove him to suicide, and he put a pistol to his head on the morning of March 22, 2015.
Albert Poland Jr., 81, was a retired factory manager, husband, father, and grandfather who suffered from both Alzheimer’s and dementia. Known as simply “Daddy” by his close-knit family, Poland began receiving phone calls in 2011-2012.
According to his wife Virginia, the phone would ring around 40 to 50 times per day. On the other end of the line, a caller from a Jamaican lottery company would repeatedly inform Poland that he had won a significant sum of lottery winnings — enough to provide the retiree and his family with financial security to last them a lifetime.
The catch, of course, was that Poland had to send the scammer thousands of dollars — disguised as tax payments — in order to receive his grand lottery winnings.
Typically, with lottery winnings such as the Powerball, annuity winnings are disbursed in 30 yearly payments that increase in number over time.
But Poland received no money, just more phone calls. And as his family, and community caught on, the problem only seemed to worsen.
“Daddy, you taught me the value of the dollar,” Poland’s son Chris reasoned with him once. “Why are you giving money away?”
On his good days, when his dementia hadn’t robbed him of reason, Poland told his wife, “I’m in too deep.”
And even after Poland’s tragic end, the Jamaican lottery caller continued to harass the family, asking for more money, and still promising the delivery of the $2.5 million.
The scammer still remains at large.
Unfortunately, Albert Poland Jr’s story is not uncommon. Earlier this year, Sanjay Williams, a 25-year-old man from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. According to the Daily Mail, he was the first person from Jamaica to be found guilty for selling lead lists that were used in the all-too-common telephone scams.
During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hohhalter identified more than 70 people — largely elderly citizens — who lost up to $5.2 million in the scam.