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Victim of lottery scam: 'Now, I can't trust anybody'

Scammer claimed he had winning ticket, needed $40K to collect winnings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man said he thought he was helping another man retrieve thousands in lottery winnings, but instead that man took $32,000 of the victim's money and left.

"Now I can't trust anybody. I can't trust nobody now," the victim said. "This changes my way of life."

The victim, who is not being named by News4Jax, said he now wants to make sure no one else falls victim to the same scam he did.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released a picture of the suspect that was captured in a Home Depot in Arlington.

That's where the man approached the victim, saying he had a winning lottery ticket and needed $40,000 to collect the total winnings.

The victim said he thought the man was desperate, so he offered his savings of $32,000. Another man -- believed by police to be a second suspect -- offered his savings of $8,000, according to JSO.

The victim said he's a Christian and thought he was helping someone in need when he handed over his life savings.

"He came to me very like sad and asking me for a favor, and he said, 'Tu hablas Espanol?' and I said, 'Yes, I do speak Spanish,'" the victim said.

The victim said the man also started talking with another man in the store, telling them he needed help getting papers. When they asked him why, the man told them both he had a winning lottery ticket, but didn't know how much it was worth.

The victim said the other man got on the phone to find out, and said this when he hung up:

"There is a problem because we need money to claim this ticket."

The victim said he didn't know nothing about it and then the other man offered $8,000 in cash but said that wouldn't be enough.

"He said, 'We have to help this guy, because this is a lot of money in this lottery, but do you have some money in your house? Savings in your house?'" the victim said. "That was my mistake, my error, because I told him it's my savings for all my life."

He said he decided to give the man $32,000, after being promised to receive $40,000 for his help.

The three men drove to the victim's house, where he picked up the money and gave it to the suspect. From there they went to a CVS to get paperwork and stamps the victim said he needed to claim his lottery winnings.

Then the man said he was sick and needed medicine and asked the victim to go inside a Family Dollar and get it.

"In that time, I came out, the car, it was gone, that's the time that I did realize. I couldn't believe it," the victim said.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the first red flag was someone saying he needed money to collect lottery winnings.

"Now for a legitimate lottery, you don't need any money there," Smith said. "You don't need to have money in order to collect winnings from the lottery."

It was a hard lesson for a man who said he was just trying to help. 

Anyone with information in regards to the alleged scammer's identity or whereabouts is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email the department at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. JSO said to remain anonymous and receive a possible reward up to $3,000, call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.