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New Port Richey men plead guilty in money laundering scheme

TAMPA — Two New Port Richey men have pleaded guilty in connection with a money laundering scheme that federal authorities say extorted at least $870,000 from victims.

David Owen, 39, and Andrew Corrigan, 24, hired callers — most of them out of the country — to impersonate IRS employees, Canadian tax authorities and local law enforcement, authorities said. The callers then would demand payment, telling those whom they called that they could be arrested or prosecuted if they did not cooperate.

Victims would deposit money into "straw bank accounts." The money was then quickly withdrawn and delivered to the men, according to federal prosecutors. A December 2016 warrant shows that investigators followed money deliveries from straw accounts to Owen's home. They also connected his home address to the Internet connection that monitored the bank accounts online.

Authorities said they are uncertain when the scheme began, but it continued through December 2015.

Owen also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to another scheme that targeted elderly victims during 2016. He hired conspirators to impersonate the Publisher's Clearinghouse lottery and tell victims they had won millions of dollars. The catch: Callers' falsely claimed taxes had to be paid in advance to collect the winnings.

The sweepstakes fraud scheme collected at least $315,000, authorities said.

Owen faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of 12 counts of conspiracy, extortion and mail fraud and an additional 10 years for four counts of money laundering. Corrigan faces 20 years for one count of money laundering and another 20 years for one count of extortion.