Publishers Clearing House Scam Arrest

NEWS RELEASE 20-014 - MARCH 5, 2021
Johnson, DonteMugshot courtesy of Broward County Sheriff's Office 

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested a south Florida man on fraud charges after he scammed an 88-year-old Sarasota resident out of $63,000 through a Publishers Clearing House scam.

Detectives began their investigation in October when family members of the 88-year-old filed a report with the sheriff’s office. The victim believed he was paying taxes for Publishers Clearing House winnings in advance and deposited $63,000 into two separate bank accounts. Through investigation coupled with video surveillance, detectives identified Donte Johnson, DOB 11/13/95, of Plantation, Florida, as the suspect using the victim’s identity to withdraw funds.

On Wednesday, with assistance from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Plantation Police Department, a search warrant was executed on Johnson’s home. During the search, detectives recovered more than $17,000 in cash, a stolen firearm, and several electronic devices. Detectives identified at least 17 additional elderly victims and believe there may be others who fell victim to Johnson’s scam. In total, detectives estimate Johnson stole approximately $300,000 from the 17 victims who live in areas all over the country.

Johnson was taken into custody by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office charged with Criminal Use of Personal Identification, Bank Fraud, and Grand Theft of a Firearm. He has since been released. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.

“It is with credit to our Special Victims Unit that this criminal is behind bars,” commented Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman. “These detectives work hard to protect our most vulnerable populations, but it is on all of us to look out for our elderly, and one another. The message here is take caution for both yourself and the ones you love. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”   

According to the Publishers Clearing House website, no payment, fee, tax, or any amount is ever required to claim or receive a prize in a PCH giveaway.