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Earl Alton Smith, a 40-year-old resident of New Jersey, has just been arrested for scamming multiple elderly victims out of thousands of dollars. Police first became aware of the scam months ago, and they have been investigating the suspect since then.

According to investigators, Smith told an 84-year-old woman that she was the grand prize winner of the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. He explained to the woman that she needed to write two checks as tax payments on her winnings in order to collect the larger payout. In reality, Smith cashed the two checks and used them for himself. Investigators determined that Smith collected at least $10,500 from the victim.

Mark Eifert, an investigator with the New York State Police, took a look into the suspect’s bank account to track the elderly woman’s checks. Upon further digging, Eifert discovered two other victims had paid Smith large amounts of money. Although the victim’s identities have not been released, police confirm that one victim lived in Kansas and another resided in Michigan. In total, the three victims gave the suspect over $20,000.

The suspect was captured after visiting the airport in Newark, New Jersey and just before he boarded his flight. Smith will be facing grand larceny charges. He is currently being held in Ontario County Jail. His bail has been set at $20,000.

Police are using this case to remind the public that these types of scams are very common. Police want the public to understand that it is impossible to win a lottery or sweepstakes without entering into the game. They note that if any “taxes” or “processing fees” need to be paid through wire transfers, gift cards or iTunes cards, then it’s most likely a scam. In legitimate lotteries, some of the winnings are withheld from your payout.