A judge has ordered the rearrest of a man accused of scamming a woman out of more than $80,000 (£59,000) after he missing his scheduled court date – despite the man’s lawyer claiming he’d been dead for months.
Douglas Rudolph, the lawyer representing the accused, said his client had passed away from complications caused by malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he has family.
But while the lawyer told the state’s attorneys this news was confirmed with a death certificate, neither the police nor federal authorities have been able to verify the document, reports the Connecticut Post.
The allegedly deceased man, 45-year-old Johnny Masesa, and others were initially charged with scamming a woman out of $83,000 by posing as representatives of the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes.
According to an arrest warrant, the woman received a call from a man who claimed to be from the organisation, telling her she ‘was in the running for a prize’ but needed to transfer money to claim it.
She withdrew the large sum of money over the course of a week and wired it over, including $25,000 to an account in Masesa’s name.
Masesa was arrested in 2019 where he pleaded not guilty, posting a $25,000 bond using a Florida address.
While he was scheduled to appear in court on 4 November, Masesa didn’t show up.
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Howard Stein said that Rudolph had mentioned the death back in June.
“At that time I asked for a death certificate,” he said. “After some period of time, I received a death certificate, or at least what was purported to be a death certificate.”
Stein explained that the certificate appeared to be written by hand and had several spots where amendments were made using correction fluid.
The state attorney said he did not suspect any wrongdoing from Rudolph, who explained that he had attempted to contact the doctor listed on the death certificate but received no reply.
Stein told Judge Peter Brown: “I have absolutely no reason to think Attorney Rudolph in any way shape or form has any independent knowledge other than what is being communicated to him and then to me.”
As well as being unable to get in touch with the doctor, Rudolph noted that there were issues between Masesa’s wife in the US and his family in Africa.
He said: “My understanding is that Mr. Masesa’s family in the Congo isn’t too fond of Mr. Masesa’s wife, who lives in Florida.
“She seemed upset at the fact that the family wasn’t being transparent with her in providing some of the documentation I needed to put this matter to rest.”
The judge has now ordered Masesa to be rearrested and held on $100,000 bond if he shows up.