Leo F. Wallace Jr. passed away in August 2022 at 83, having lived in Sierra Vista for nearly two decades. However, before his death, Wallace’s family uncovered distressing news – he had fallen victim to a nationwide lottery scam allegedly orchestrated by a group of women in Florida.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting four individuals implicated in this scheme: Marsha Nasthassia Ward, Janelle Monique Beckford Sutherland, Amanda Ayana Butler Myrie, and Melina Marie Beckford. This legal action follows an extensive investigation conducted jointly by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
The indictment, issued by a state grand jury in May 2023, accuses these individuals of defrauding Wallace of a minimum of $25,000 through various illegal means related to a lottery scheme. According to court records, the charges against each of them include theft, money laundering, conducting an illegal enterprise through racketeering, and engaging in fraudulent schemes and artifices.
An additional unnamed defendant faces charges in the same indictment, specifically for multiple counts of theft, money laundering, and fraudulent schemes and artifices. This individual stands alone among the co-defendants, facing an accusation of illegal control of an enterprise.
Details of the Alleged Fraud and Legal Proceedings
The specific methods employed by the accused women to defraud Wallace are not explicitly outlined in the indictment. However, Assistant Attorney General Douglas Clark’s filing suggests a well-coordinated and wide-reaching scam that potentially affected more individuals beyond Wallace.
Court documents reveal that Clark is prepared to present six special agents from the FBI Phoenix Office and HSI-Douglas as witnesses during the trial. They will provide insights into how Wallace was targeted and victimized by the scheme. Moreover, Clark has disclosed a substantial volume of potential trial evidence amounting to over 21,000 pages or files to the defense attorneys representing Beckford, Myrie, Sutherland, and Ward.
Among the disclosed materials are records of banking transactions and phone communications, receipts from delivery services, photographs, interviews with suspects, and the outcomes of a search warrant executed at Melina Beckford’s residence in Oakland Park, Florida, as detailed in Clark’s filing.
Individual Allegations and Legal Proceedings
According to court records, Melina Beckford, aged 59, is accused of involvement in conducting an illegal enterprise through racketeering between January 2014 and June 2020. Her specific offenses related to Wallace are purported to have occurred from April to June 2020. Beckford pleaded not guilty to all charges during an arraignment on October 23 and is scheduled for a pretrial conference on January 29 in Cochise County.
Janelle Monique Beckford Sutherland, aged 28, allegedly participated in conducting an illegal enterprise from January 2015 to April 2020. However, her involvement in targeting Wallace appears to have taken place over a three-day period in April 2020. Similar to Beckford, Sutherland pleaded not guilty during the October 23 arraignment and awaits a pretrial conference scheduled for January 29.
Marsha Nasthassia Ward, aged 32, is implicated in direct involvement with Wallace between January and April 2020. Additionally, she is charged with participation in the long-standing criminal enterprise from April 2014 to June 2020. Ward entered a plea of not guilty during her arraignment in July and is set for a pretrial conference on January 29, akin to Beckford and Sutherland.