The accused operator of a raffle that failed to produce a prize after promising to award the lucky winner a customized Jeep in 2021 is facing trial in the case after waiving to court the criminal charges filed against him in January.
Preston Devenney, 53, of Erie, waived to court felony counts of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities, perjury and theft by deception prior to the start of his scheduled preliminary hearing in Erie County Central Court on Wednesday morning. He remains free on $20,000 unsecured bond and now awaits formal arraignment in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas.
More:Great Lakes Jeep Jam organizer accused of making up raffle winner, failing to award Jeep
Erie County detectives accuse Devenney of running a raffle in 2021 that promised to award the winner a 2021 diesel Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys 4x4 and $10,000. The grand prize was to be awarded during the 2021 Great Lakes Jeep Jam at the Wattsburg-Erie County Fairgrounds.
Investigators said the prize was never awarded, and they accused Devenney of making up the name of a person he claimed lived in Texas and was the grand prize winner.
Tickets for the raffle were sold at $50 apiece or three for $100. Detectives wrote in Devenney's criminal complaint that they compiled a list of 210 victims in the raffle scam, for a total of $19,650.
County detectives also accused Devenney of obtaining small games of chance and bingo licenses despite having a criminal record that prevented him from obtaining the licenses, and of promising to make cash donations from the Erie Jeep Jam proceeds to the Erie Humane Society and Mission 22 but failing to deliver those promised donations.
Investigators said Devenney is president of the Great Lakes Jeep Jam and of Erie-based Gears-N-Grub, which sponsored the event in July 2021.
More:Erie County DA investigating after 2021 event organizers failed to deliver on Jeep raffle
Detectives said they launched their investigation into the raffle in March after receiving a tip about it. The investigation became public in December, when the Erie County District Attorney's Office revealed the probe on its website and set up a special email address for those who might have been victims of the scam to pass along their information.
The email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, was still active on the website Wednesday.
Authorities wrote in Devenney's criminal complaint that he admitted during an interview that he made up the name of the reported winner of the raffle after realizing that he wouldn't be able to pay for the Jeep. He said the Jeep Jam was a failure in that it was a rainout and didn't have the attendance he was expecting, and he didn't make his number for the grand prize raffle, according to information in the complaint.
Contact Tim Hahn at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNhahn.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie man waives charges in raffle scam that failed to award Jeep