Woman scams elderly victim out of $5,000, authorities say

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned an elderly woman in Osceola County lost thousands of dollars after becoming the victim of a scam that's been around for a while, according to authorities.

Maria Juarbe told WFTV she feels embarrassed she trusted a stranger so easily.

A woman told Juarbe that she needed help to cash in on a lottery ticket worth millions, saying she would share the winnings, but as it turns out, Juarbe lost thousands instead.

"I just wanted to dig a hole and let it bury me, one of those sinkholes, bury me right there," said Juarbe.

Investigators said Luz Marlene Perez scammed multiple victims, saying she worked for a "Christian foundation" and had a lottery ticket worth millions, but couldn't claim the winnings alone because she was in the country illegally.

"She was very nice," said Juarbe. "I talk a lot about God, about Jesus. She made me believe she was Christian."

The two first met at a Publix on Highway 27 and the suspect was able to convince the victim to get into the car. They drove nearly 20 miles to a Chase Bank, where Juarbe withdrew $5,000.

Perez now faces charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud.

Channel 9's Julie Salomone learned Perez is accused of running the scam in several states and central Florida counties, including Osceola, Orange and Volusia.