Latoya Lee

Georgia woman goes to prison for scam that cost Hamilton resident $53,000

Latoya Lee, 35, of Stone Mountain, pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering and two counts of theft from a person in a protected class, all felonies, earlier this month. Lee took $53,000 from a Hamilton woman in her 80s as well as a man from the Columbus area, according to Hamilton police and court records.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard sentenced Lee to 7½ years in prison Wednesday morning as both victims watched.

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The Hamilton victim was first contacted by phone in 2016 when a woman telling her she had won $26 million in a sweepstakes. Then the caller asked for money.

“She thought she was paying taxes,” Hamilton Police Detective Jon Habig told the Journal-News.

For the next several months, the victim shipped cash, money orders and checks to the defendant and another associate.

The woman contacted law enforcement in 2017.

“The report was made directly to me and I started investigating,” said Habig, who investigates financial crimes for the department.

The scam is just one of many that have victimized people in the area.

“In this case there was evidence that a lot of time isn’t available,” said Habig, who added he has evidence that Lee and her husband victimized 20 people nationwide.

Habig is now working to get Lee’s husband, who is believed to be in Jamaica, back to the United States and prosecuted.

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“I hope in the U.S. attorney’s office will be helping us with that,” he said.

Habig said he believes the victims lost more than the tally attached to the charges, “but that is what I was able to prove.”

Habig travelled to Georgia with the U.S. Marshals Service to arrest Lee, who was booked into the Butler County Jail on July 3.

“This is not a common scenario for how these cases play out, and I am very hopeful that I will be more successful in the future now that I have been successful with this one,” Habig said.

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