BROOKSVILLE — Early in their investigation, Brooksville detectives believed Doris Siegel was the victim of a Nigerian lottery scam long before she started conning others out of more than $1 million with a similar scheme.
Now, they believe Siegel might have known what she was doing all along. And that she might have had help.
Brooksville police filed two more felony charges against Siegel on Friday, accusing her of knowingly — and painstakingly — creating schemes to defraud friends, neighbors and even her pastor out of more than $1 million.
"Our thought is that she's been doing this for awhile," Brooksville police Chief George Turner said. "This 'confused old lady' spent a lot of time and trouble structuring these financial transactions."
Siegel, 79, faces charges of money laundering and structuring financial transactions in addition to a previous charge of organized fraud. She remained at the Hernando County Jail on Friday in lieu of $50,000 bail.
According to police, Siegel transferred nearly $1.1 million in small amounts to sidestep state and federal transaction reporting requirements. Siegel is also accused of forging the signature of her roommate, Pauline Price, to conceal some of the transactions. Price died several years ago, police said.
"We believe a lot of those transactions happened right after (Price) died," Turner said. "We don't think (Price) had anything to do with this stuff."
But as detectives continue to interview victims and comb through bank records and other documents, they are considering whether Siegel had some help organizing these scams.
"We're looking into that," Turner said.
Siegel came to the attention of police in 2004, when she was apparently duped by the Nigerian lottery scam. She went to police, who told her that she had likely been victimized based on the correspondence she had received.
Siegel then used that information and deception, police said, to fraudulently obtain money from other people. Inside her home, police said, they found reams of paperwork detailing how to operate a lottery scam.
According to police, Siegel approached several victims from January 2008 through this month and asked for money, claiming she had won a lottery in Holland.
Additionally, Turner said investigators have evidence that Siegel convinced a friend to donate $14,000 in 2001 for a Guatemalan mission that does not exist.
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120. You can follow Joel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jandersontimes.