Three people were charged Monday in an alleged lottery scam targeting a 66-year-old Long Beach woman.
Mercedes Montanez, 68, Luisa Camargo, 38, and Tito Lozada, 49, all appeared in a downtown courtroom and pleaded not guilty to one felony each of grand theft from an elder and grand theft of more than $950.
Bail was set at $250,000 each and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Oct. 11, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
If convicted as charged, the defendants face up to four years in prison.
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Prosecutors allege Montanez approached the unnamed victim on a Long Beach street on Sept. 26 and told her she had a winning lottery ticket but needed to pay $15,000 to collect her winnings. Montanez allegedly asked the victim to help pay the fee in return for a portion of the lottery proceeds.
Camargo alleged pretended to be helping out the "winner" with a contribution of his own, while Lozada is accused of posing as a lottery official who supposedly validated the ticket.
Prosecutors allege the defendants took the woman to her Long Beach home and a local bank to pick up more than $1,800 before dropping her off to await further "instructions."
Police officers observed the suspicious activity and arrested the trio later the same day.