Two siblings from Maryland who convinced multiple local residents to pay taxes and fees in advance of collecting on nonexistent lottery winnings entered guilty pleas Thursday in federal court.
Daniel Archer, 29, and Matthew Archer, 28, each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to 20 counts of wire fraud.
The two men accepted plea agreements in which they will pay $728,442.18 in restitution.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but the plea agreements each man reached will recommend a lesser sentence.
Federal court records identified six people by their initials who gave money to the Archers and a third person who was not charged with a crime in the case.
Authorities said the siblings contacted victims through emails and phone calls to tell them they had won a large sum of money in a lottery.
"Victims were told in emails and telephone calls that they had to pay taxes, fees and other amounts up front before they could receive their lottery winnings," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiser said. "In reality, there were no lottery winnings."
The siblings came to the attention of local law enforcement in 2016 when a woman came to Kentucky State Police Post 3 in Bowling Green on June 2, 2016, to file a report that her stepmother was being victimized in a financial scheme.
According to Warren County circuit clerk records, the woman overheard her stepmother have a phone conversation with someone regarding arranging some type of payment.
When the stepmother got off the phone, she was asked about the conversation and told her stepdaughter a man named "Ralph Johnson" had phoned her and said she had won $2.5 million and a car through a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.
The stepmother had been making tax payments totaling more than $164,000 in anticipation of receiving the winnings, according to court records.
While the woman and her stepdaughter were meeting with KSP investigators, the man who claimed to be Ralph Johnson called the stepmother's phone and requested another payment of $100,000, and the stepmother agreed to obtain half the money for the payment immediately and the other half in a few weeks, arranging for Johnson to pick up the money at her residence at a later date.
On the appointed date, the man, later identified as Matthew Archer, arrived at the house and was arrested by KSP.
Daniel Archer was arrested in July 2016 after investigation determined he was involved in the scheme, court records show.
The siblings were charged initially with crimes in state court, and a federal grand jury returned wire fraud indictments against both men last year.
U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers will sentence both men April 24.