Two men from Georgia and South Carolina have been charged in federal court in Pittsburgh in an extortion scheme in which authorities said they impersonated Allegheny County sheriff’s office employees to demand payment for missing purported court dates.
Raquan Hardy, 26, of Anderson, S.C., and Richard Long Jr., 49, of Ellenwood, Ga., were charged Monday under seal with fraud conspiracy.
The case was unsealed on Tuesday after a magistrate judge in Pittsburgh issued arrest warrants.
The pair had been charged last year in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court after an investigation by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and police in Georgia. At that time, Sheriff Kevin Kraus said they had stolen $43,000 from three victims in Pittsburgh by posing as his officers.
Now the case is federal and a fourth victim has been added.
Law enforcement from Pennsylvania and Georgia had been investigating the scheme in which conspirators called the victims, all women, pretending to be sheriff’s officers in demanding money to avoid arrest purportedly for not showing up for court hearings as witnesses.
The impersonators told the victims that they had to go to a bail bond agency in Pittsburgh to pay fines or post cash as security to keep from being arrested, according to an FBI affidavit.
The victims believed the threats were real and three of them paid the cash, agents said.
Hardy’s role was to set up the meeting locations and relay it to Long, who would drive to the location posing as an officer to collect the money.
Phones seized from the pair during the investigation revealed their connection to each other and to others involved, the FBI said. Agents also collected surveillance footage from the meeting locations.
One of the victims told police that she was contacted in April by “Sgt. David Lynch” of the sheriff’s office. He said she’d been subpoenaed to testify in court but didn’t show up, so the court issued citations for $10,250.
The victim said she’d never been subpoenaed and wanted to talk to a lawyer. Lynch told her the judge had issued a “suppression order” barring her from talking to anyone. If she did, deputies would arrest her.
The victim went to her bank and got the money while still on the phone with the caller. But she got so upset at the bank that she fainted, the FBI said. The call ended and no meeting was ever set up.
In a second case, another victim told Pittsburgh police on July 11, 2022, that “Sgt. David Lynch” called her that day to say she owed $8,500 in outstanding fines for not showing up in court. If she didn’t meet with him to pay, she’d be arrested, he said. He told her to go to a bail agency on Liberty Avenue. She got the money from the bank, met Long in a parking lot and turned over $8,250, the FBI said. A short time later, she decided to call 911 to report what happened.
A third victim fell prey to the same scheme and ended up meeting Long in the parking lot and handing over $10,250. After that transaction, “Lynch” called her back and said he’d missed a citation and said she owed another $10,000. She took the money out of her bank and turned it over as well.
The fourth victim said she was contacted by a “Sgt. Gerald Hill” and owed fines of $10,250. She too paid the money in the parking lot.
The FBI said investigators reviewing the phones of Hardy and Long found text messages corresponding with the transactions involving the Pittsburgh victims.
Detectives also identified the Chevy Impala that Long used to take possession of the money and tracked it to a person in Duluth, Ga., who had rented it to a Courtney Watson. Police on surveillance in Lilburn, Ga., in July 2022 saw Long pull into a gas station and watched as a short time later Watson arrived at the same gas station and Long blew her a kiss.
When Long left, sheriff’s deputies pulled him over and arrested him. On his phone, police found photos taken in Pittsburgh that showed cash consistent with the amounts taken from the Pittsburgh victims. They also found communications with other conspirators and GPS directions to the locations where he’d met the victims for payment.
Long told police he’d never been to Pittsburgh, but police turned up other evidence that he was lying, the FBI said.
Hardy had rented an Airbnb on Ocala Street in Pittsburgh and stayed there from July 11 until July 14, 2022, agents said. Doorbell camera footage showed Long was staying there, too.
Police in Dallas arrested Hardy in September 2022 and found $63,000 in cash on him as well as a book of receipts similar to the ones given to the victims in Pittsburgh.
Law officers said cellphone tracking showed Long’s phone moving from Georgia into North Carolina and Virginia in July 2022 and shows his and Hardy’s phones active in Pittsburgh on July 11, 2022.
Sheriff Kraus said last year that authorities in Broward County, Fla., and Dallas were planning their own charges against Hardy involving similar schemes there.