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.
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If convicted as charged, the defendants face up to four years in prison.
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.