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District Attorney

Posted on: April 4, 2019

Woman Jailed for Role in $17K Grant Scam Using Facebook Messenger

ShauntaPowell

A Washington woman was recently sentenced for her role in an online scam that cost a Lancaster County man over $17,000.

The victim was contacted by a “friend” via Facebook Messenger about a federal grant program. The “friend” told the victim she obtained $90,000 in grant funds and advised the victim to do the same.

The “friend” was actually a scammer who had hacked a Facebook account.

The victim was instructed to send - and did, in fact, send – “fees” in excess of $17,000 to obtain the grant funds. One of the recipients was Shaunta Powell, who received several wire transactions in Washington state.

The victim never received any grant funds.                                                                             

Powell, 35, pleaded guilty in Lancaster County Court to four felonies. Her sentence: 9 to 23 months in prison; followed by three years of probation; she must pay back the $5,803 she received via the scam.

East Earl Township police filed charges after a complex investigation that involved contact with police and businesses in multiple states. Essentially, Powell was tied to the scam because she provided her personal information when receiving the wire transfers. Police matched surveillance images of her receiving the transfers at businesses.

“This was an elaborate scam that involved multiple perpetrators and a social media hacking,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. “These crimes are not simple to solve because – as was the case here – the scammers are often out of state or out of country and rarely provide a real name.

“These scams have devastating impact on the victims who are left feeling helpless and financially damaged.”

Kelvin Kelly, 40, was also charged last year. He has been on the lam ever since. Anyone with information on his whereabouts should submit a tip via this CrimeWatch page, or contact their local police department.

The victim contacted police in the summer of 2017 after realizing the scam when he saw, in person, the Facebook “friend” who approached him online about the grant.

During the scam, the Facebook “friend” referred the victim to an attorney, also via Facebook Messenger; the “attorney” also was a scammer.

Detective Gary Sensenig filed charges.                                                              

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Greathouse prosecuted the case.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; bhambright@co.lancaster.pa.us; Twitter: @BrettHambright

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