An Indiana woman has been sentenced to three years in federal prison after she used a dating app to scam a 96-year-old man out of nearly $80,000, a U.S. attorney announced Wednesday.
Brittany Rakia Shawnai Lasley, 34, of Anderson, created a social media account containing fake profile information on the dating site “Plenty of Fish” and used the account to perpetrate an online romance with the man, who was a windower, according to U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha.
Over time, Lasley persuaded the 96-year-old to send her money, gift cards, credit cards and even to hand over sensitive banking information. She subsequently gained access to his checking account and made several unauthorized purchases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Attorney Cunha said Lasley led the victim to believe that these gifts would continue to foster a romantic relationship.
U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced her on Wednesday to 36 months of incarceration to be followed by three years of federal supervised release, the first six months to be served in a residential reentry facility.
The victim wrote in an impact statement that he “was in shock and disbelief. It took me a few days to comprehend what had happened,” a federal prosecutor quoted during a sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
The statement continued: “I was embarrassed, horrified, and distressed about my financial situation, fearing that I could lose the house I had lived in since 1970.”
Attorney Cunha argued: “This defendant preyed on a vulnerable, elderly Rhode Islander, dangling the promise of love and companionship in an attempt to help herself to her victim’s hard-earned savings.”
“With this sentence, it is Ms. Lasley who will deservedly pay the price for her appalling conduct. I commend the exceptional work of this team of law enforcement professionals- state, federal, and local, for bringing this defendant to justice,” the attorney added.
Inspector Ketty D. Larco-Ward, of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, similarly lamented that Lasley was victimizing a “vulnerable” person to “satisfy her own greed.”
“There is no worse predator than one who preys on the vulnerable. In this case, Ms. Lasley targeted lonely seniors to satisfy her own greed,” Larco-Ward said. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is proud to stand with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to protect the vulnerable members of our community and to bring to justice those who would victimize them.”
Lasley initially pleaded guilty to a single charge of wire fraud on September 6, 2023.
Assistant United States Attorneys Paul F. Daly, Jr., and Peter Roklan prosecuted the case.
The Coventry Rhode Island Police Department, the Anderson Indiana Police Department, the Indiana State Police, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General assisted in the investigation.