Elderly man accused of running cross-state lottery scam

January 20, 2012 12:47:01 PM PST
A man living in a southwest Houston retirement home is accused of running a lottery scam against a fellow senior citizen in California.

Robert W. Cornell, 81, is charged with theft from the elderly.

According to court documents, Cornell called his victim -- an elderly woman in Sacramento, California -- in September and gave her a false name. He told her she had won the lottery but she needed to pay taxes on the winnings before the prize could be awarded.

The victim followed her caller's directions and mailed two checks for $5,000 and $3,400 to Robert Cornell at his address on Jason Street in Houston, officials said. The checks were then cashed at a Wells Fargo Bank on S. Gessner.

Investigators said the victim continued getting phone calls asking for more money, but she never received the prize money. She realized she was being scammed and called Sacramento police.

A detective in Sacramento contacted the Houston Police Department for assistance. HPD confirmed that Cornell lived at the address on Jason St. and that the address was a retirement home with locked mail boxes and restricted building access.

Houston police also looked at surveillance footage from the Wells Fargo where the checks were cashed and were able to identify Cornell, records state.

Cornell has not been arrested. It was unclear Friday if the woman in California was his only alleged victim.