Crook receives six years in prison for crimes of conspiracy and fraud
By Kate Northrop
After stealing over $1 million from one single victim, the leader of a ring of Jamaican scam artists was sentenced Friday to almost six years in prison.
Like any typical scammer, Stieve Fernandez, 35, spent his time deceiving vulnerable individuals and robbing elderly targets of their life savings as part of a high-functioning underground network of lottery fraudsters.
Fernandez was said to have bought lead sheets, which contain the names and telephone numbers of people potentially vulnerable to scams. He would contact individuals on the lists to try to convince them that they had won big in a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. In order to collect their prize, however, they were instructed to pay upfront fake fees disguised as taxes, insurance, handling charges, and various other expenses.
In doing so, he stole $1.2 million from one single victim.
The elderly individual, who resides in Mystic, Connecticut, and whose identity remains anonymous as a crime victim, was first contacted by Fernandez in 2015. Between then and 2018, Fernandez gave the unsuspecting man instructions with an American accent and while under various pseudonyms, such as "Damian Jackson," "Jesse Jackson," and "Huckleberry Finn."
The victim followed Fernandez's instructions by sending him and his accomplices over a million dollars via postal money orders and investment account transfers. He had even gone so far as to buy and transfer gold and silver bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fernandez used the stolen funds to buy a house in Jamaica and a scenic vineyard in Argentina. He kept two dogs at the vineyard and named them after his wife and the Mystic victim he deceived.
"They were the people whose money had paid for them," the prosecution said he bragged to a co-conspirator.
That was just one case of fraud. According to prosecutors, Fernandez carried out similar lottery scams against four other elderly individuals. He successfully swindled $684,500 from them and had attempted to steal an additional $222,000.
He was also suspected of working with a girlfriend living in Canada, a cousin believed to have resided in Florida, and two other associates. The cousin, Horace Crooks, was sentenced to a year in prison in June, while his girlfriend, Minique Morris, awaits sentencing.
In October 2018, Fernandez and his associates were indicted by a New Haven grand jury. He was arrested in Jamaica in May 2019, was extradited to the United States, and has been detained since.
The crook tried to argue in court that he was just "a simple farmer" and "a devoted family man" who "was brought up in the violence of gangland Jamaica." He recalled that his younger brother was "stabbed more than sixty times, shot more than thirty times and set on fire because he could not pay extortion money" and talked about being "captured and tortured by a local gang."
He said that he was also self-taught in "computer repair, audio engineering, and Bonsai art."
In February of this year, Fernandez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. On Friday, he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kari A. Dooley to 71 months in prison and was ordered to pay $1,196,207 in restitution.