Broward County

These 4 men told people they won a sweepstakes. Now, they’re $25 million losers.

Police looking for suspects in lottery scam

Miami-Dade Police believe this man took part in swindling $10,000 from a South Dade woman in a lottery scam in October.
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Miami-Dade Police believe this man took part in swindling $10,000 from a South Dade woman in a lottery scam in October.

Four South Florida men who ripped off between $20 million and $25 million via an international lottery scam that targeted the elderly got federal prison sentences that will run only slightly longer than the scam did.

But they’ll pay other ways.

According to court documents, the quartet worked the scheme for six years, 2008 through 2014.

Fort Lauderdale’s Matthew Pisoni, 44, and Aventura’s Victor Ramirez, 38, each received seven-year sentences for one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Boca Raton licensed pilot Marcus Pradel, 41, will be grounded in a federal facility for six years, six months after his conviction on the same charge.

The foursome’s lone guilty plea came from Fort Lauderdale 50-year-old John Leon, who received a three-year, six-month sentence.

Leon’s court documents admit he created the mailings that told people they had won a sweepstakes, but needed to pay between $20 and $50 to claim their prize.

“As a result of mailing over 5 million of these fraudulent statements to victims (predominantly the elderly) in North America, Europe and Asia; the defendants were able to induce over 500,000 people to pay a total of between $20 million and $25 million.”

No restitution was involved in the sentences. But, in forfeiture, the government snagged $176,949.75 from two Bank of America accounts, a 1997 Cessna 172R single-engine, four-seat airplane owned by JC Air Academy out of Stockton, California, according to FAA registry; a 1978 Beechcraft B-60 airplane, owned by Christopher Hudak, who used a P.O. Box in South Miami for his owner registration with the FAA.

Also in forfeiture:

▪ In addition to the $26,871,290 money judgment, the government snagged from Pisoni the house and land at 2430 Castillo Isle in Fort Lauderdale, on which Broward property records put a market value at $2,161,610; and everything in Pisoni’s bank account at Geneva bank Gonet & Cie Banquiers Prives; Bahamian bank First Caribbean International Bank; and six SunTrust Investment Accounts.

▪ Ramirez lost $5,824,016 in a money judgment.

▪ In addition to the $26,871,290 money judgment, Pradel had to give up a 2010 Redbird Flight Simulator and the rental proceeds for it.

▪ The money judgment against Leon was $4,182,302. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, a case eventually dismissed for failure to make planned payments.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal