Police say elderly woman was swindled with 'prize patrol' scheme

Cocoa Police say a group of crooks are accused of stealing an elderly woman's life savings, posing a "prize patrol," and then wiping out her bank account.  

One of the suspects, 30-year-old Tyler Gatewood, took about $16,000 out of an Brevard County ATM, according to police.  They say the Cocoa man, along with three others, called an 88-year-old woman more than a thousand miles away in League City, Texas, posing as representatives of the popular sweepstakes Publishers Clearing House.

Police say Gatewood told the elderly woman she won $7 million and a new Mercedez-Benz, but before she could claim the prize, she would have to send money to "pay for the taxes on the winnings."

Police say the victim was swindled out of more than $55,000, which she deposited into three separate bank accounts, including one belonging to Gatewood. They say the victim believed the scheme, because she was a customer of Publishers Clearing House.

"She had purchased items from their website, so for them to call her would not have been unusual," explains Yvonne Martinez, with the Cocoa Police Department.

Gatewood was jailed on charges of fraud, grand theft, and exploitation of the elderly.