WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) – The owners of a now-closed Waterbury juice bar are facing federal charges for allegedly being involved in a sweepstakes scam that preyed on senior citizens.
A federal criminal complaint unsealed last month in Arizona charged Zonia Wright and her husband, Obrian Wright, with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Zonia Wright opened the Raw Deal Juice Bar in downtown Waterbury in 2017 but the business only saw a trickle of customers despite being touted on Mayor Neil M. O’Leary’s Facebook page in 2019, the Republican-American reported.
FBI agents questioned the couple in September 2019, and the juice bar closed several months later, the newspaper reported.
According to the criminal complaint, the scammers contacted senior citizens around the country and told them they’d won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes but that they would need to send money to cover state taxes. They were allegedly told they faced legal consequences if they didn’t comply.
Victims sent tens of thousands of dollars to addresses controlled by the Wrights and others involved in the scam, according to the complaint. The couple allegedly took in more than $600,000 between 2012 and 2017 from victims and other sources not related to business income or paychecks.
Zonia Wright was arrested in Connecticut last month and was released on bond, according to the newspaper. She had a court appearance scheduled in Arizona for Monday that was postponed until next month, according to the court docket.
Wright told FBI agents she didn’t remember cashing the specific money orders she cashed, and her husband denied being involved in the scheme, according to the newspaper. Obrian Wright didn’t respond to a message seeking comment left by the newspaper. A message was left with an attorney representing Zonia Wright on Sunday by The Associated Press. The court docket didn’t list an attorney for Obrian Wright.
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