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Entries in Scam (13)

Sunday
Dec302012

Mom Seeks Police Help Finding Woman in Suspected Cancer Scam

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A mother says she will ask police to find the woman who she believes scammed her dying son.

Thomas Doty, 20, of Washington state, died on Dec. 19 after a three-year battle with bone cancer -- but not before a woman apparently scammed him and his family into believing a check for $250,000 was on the way.

Family friend Jonathan Hillstrand, star of the show "Deadliest Catch," made a video asking for support for Doty. A woman claiming to be a nurse in Indiana soon promised $250,000 to send him to San Diego, pay for experimental cancer treatments, and help the family save their house after the expense of caring for their son.

"This huge yellow bouquet of flowers showed up, [with a note] saying, 'No more worries,'" Tiffany Doty, Thomas's mother, told ABC News. "She sent me a text and an email, and it all started, saying, 'I saw your story, and my heart breaks, and I'm going to pay for all this treatment.'"

Tiffany Doty says the woman scammed her family for weeks -- always coming up with an excuse and phony proof that she had already sent the money, including snapshots of bank statements -- as they planned and eventually took Thomas to San Diego, planning to receive treatments.

"She was always out of town or out of the country, so it was always difficult for her to get things done, and then we sent the wire info, and that didn't happen because she got one number wrong, and it became obvious after a couple weeks that this is not happening," Tiffany Doty said. "That's when my sister just called the local news here ... and that's when we got a huge outpouring from the public and that was enough to get him down there."

Thomas Doty flew to San Diego hoping to receive experimental treatments not covered by the family's insurance, Tiffany Doty said. She blames the woman for lost time in addition to false hopes.

"When we started him down there he was just in a little bit of back pain," Tiffany Doty says of preparing to take her son to San Diego. "By the time we got him down there he was on 300 milliliter of morphine a day."

All the while, Tiffany Doty said she told the woman to let her know if the money wouldn't come, or if the woman had changed her mind about wanting to send it. Tiffany Doty said she received messages purportedly from the woman's mother -- messages she now believes were sent by the woman herself.

"She's never been a nurse anywhere in the United States that we can find. There's a lot of things that we've looked at, a lot of emails we've sent," Tiffany Doty told ABC News. "Nothing checks out at all, except that she's shut down her Twitter account, and things like that."

While Thomas and his family waited for the money, his condition worsened.

"Between the time of getting [to San Diego] and the time she wasted, there was another tumor growing that started out the size of a grape, and when the eight weeks went by it was the size of an orange," Tiffany Doty said.

Her son, she says, was crushed when they realized the money would never come.

Now, Tiffany Doty will go to police.

"The last thing he wanted is for her to be found and not to be able to hurt anyone else, and so that is my mission," Tiffyany Doty told ABC.

Her mother, Thomas's grandmother, has contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tiffany Doty said.

"She just called to ask questions about the laws, and would they go after her, would they investigate," she said. "They indicated that there's something there to pursue."

Tiffany Doty says she plans to file a report with the local police. She believes the woman gave a fake name, she said, and that her family was scammed by someone who has been doing the same thing to other people for a long time.

"We are going to file charges," Tiffany Doty said. "I'm sure there are cyberstalking laws, fraud. I personally am just wiped out. I am beyond wiped out, but my son wanted her found, and he is not a vindictive person."

Aside from finding justice, the Doty family is facing immediate financial struggles and is asking the public for help. Through their website, HealThomas.com, they are asking for donations to help them save their home. Both Tiffany and her husband are out of work, she told ABC.

"We were a normal family," Tiffany Doty said. "We had great jobs, and two years worth of savings, everything that you need. Our house is going to be auctioned on Jan. 11."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec282012

Woman Arrested in Newtown School Shooting Scam

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Authorities say a New York City woman who pretended to be an aunt to one of the 20 children killed in the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has been arrested and charged with lying to federal agents.

The FBI and a U.S. attorney in Connecticut say 37-year-old Noeul Alba of the Bronx solicited money for the child’s funeral, then steered the funds into her own PayPal account.  The criminal complaint does not state how much money was collected.

Authorities say Alba “used her Facebook account, telephone calls and text messages” during the alleged scam, and then lied to investigators.  Alba was charged Thursday in federal court in Hartford with making false statements and was released on $50,000 bond.  She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Authorities say Alba could potentially also be charged with wire fraud, “access device fraud” and “interstate transportation of stolen property.”

Federal prosecutors in Connecticut say they are investigating a number of scams connected to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

New York Brothers Charged in $5M Lottery Scam

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two brothers have been charged with attempted grand larceny and conspiracy after they waited six years to claim a $5 million lottery scratch-off ticket that they allegedly scammed from a customer at their family’s convenience store in Syracuse, N.Y.

Andy Ashkar, 34, still claims that he brought the winning ticket himself in 2006 at his family’s store where he also worked.  Ashkar had said that he waited six years to split the money with his brother, 36-year-old Nayel, because he worried the cash would negatively affect his engagement to his girlfriend.

“I would have hoped that at some point in the last six years he would be convinced that she did marry him for love,” District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.

The two brothers were arrested Tuesday and, if convicted, Andy Ashkar could face up to 25 years for felony criminal possession and stolen property.  Nayel Ashkar could face 15 years for grand larceny and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Fitzpatrick says the real winner is a hard-working, 49-year-old married father of two who authorities are calling John Doe.  Lottery officials were suspicious of the brothers from the start because of how much time elapsed before they came forward, according to Fitzpatrick.

Andy Ashkar waited till the very last minute to claim the prize in March.  He told lottery officials he would take a lesser amount if they could avoid the usual lottery news conference to announce the winners.

Suspicious lottery officials, in hopes that the real winner would come forward, put out a detailed press release that the brothers won the $5 million prize, Fitzpatrick said.

John Doe had been fooled into giving the ticket to the brothers in October 2006 because he was confused by the number of zeroes on the ticket.

“He wasn’t thinking clearly at the time,” Fitzpatrick said of winner’s initial reading of the ticket.  “He says to a buddy he won $5,000.  The friend says, `No, I think you won $5 million,’ and he says, `No, it couldn’t be.’”

Police say that Andy Ashkar, who was behind the counter, told the man that he won $5,000 as opposed to the $5 million, and offered to pay him $4,000 on the spot to avoid taxes and other complications.  John Doe took the deal on the spot, according to police.

“For six years he has lived a very pedestrian life struggling and working hard.  I would be just thrilled to death -- his life just completely changed around,” Fitzpatrick said.

Bob Durr, the lawyer for the brothers, said they will plead not guilty.

The John Doe tells authorities that he’s always had this nagging feeling that he was cheated by the brothers.  He’s expected to come forward soon and receive the $5 million prize six years in the making.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun262012

Fallen Soldier’s Picture Used in Craigslist Scam

KATU/ABC News(PENSACOLA, Fla.) -- An Oregon father was angered to find an image of his son, a fallen soldier, posted on Craigslist as part of a scam to collect money for a fictitious wounded soldier.

“It’s disheartening. This just seems to be really low to take someone’s reputation and memory and tarnish it to make money,” said Dr. Craig Fennerty.

His son, Sgt. Sean Fennerty, died in Iraq in 2007 after being hit by a roadside bomb. A photo from Fennerty’s obituary was lifted and used in the posting on the Pensacola, Fla., Craigslist website.

The ad, which Fennerty said was removed Monday, claimed the man pictured smiling in a helmet and fatigues was Chris Fennery, a soldier who had lost both legs and needed help paying his medical bills. A link was provided to a donation site and readers were encouraged to share the posting on Facebook and Twitter.

Fennerty said he was made aware of the photograph after a local newspaper investigated the scam and someone who knew his son recognized the picture.

He said he contacted Craigslist but received no response or apology.

“It sure took a curiously long time [to take it down],” Fennerty said. “I want [Sean] remembered for what he did, which was honorable and patriotic. Now his memory is somewhat attached to a financial scam and there’s an element of anger.”

Craigslist confirmed to ABC News the post had been removed.

No arrests have been made and it could not be immediately determined how much money was collected by the fraudulent site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun012012

Philadelphia Weatherman Drugged, Scammed by Women

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- John Bolaris was a TV weather forecaster in Philadelphia, but even he could not predict the intentions of two comely women that approached him at a luxury hotel bar in Miami.

He woke up two days after the encounter with little memory and even less money -- allegedly drugged twice on consecutive nights and charged more than $43,000 on his credit card.

Bolaris had become another mark in a scheme run by an alleged Eastern European crime ring.

Hours of FBI surveillance videos and photos obtained by ABC News show how the group of so-called bar girls, known as "b-girls," lived and operated in South Beach -- targeting wealthy male tourists and bilking them of thousands of dollars.

"They came across very cutesy, and very sincere, and very nice, like the girls next door," Bolaris recalled of his alleged scammers in an interview with ABC's 20/20.  "This wasn't a hooker-type thing."

The FBI said Bolaris was one of 88 men preyed on by a crime ring that illegally brought in attractive women from Eastern Europe and used them to lure men from Miami hotspots like the Hotel Delano, Clevelander and Fontainebleau to shady clubs nearby where the girls plied their alleged victims with liquor, forged their signatures and charged them "exorbitant prices" for alcohol.

Bolaris' stranger-than-fiction story began when he vacationed in Miami in March 2010.  Bolaris, who was 52 at the time of the incident, said he was having a drink at a South Beach bar when he was approached by two women with Russian-sounding accents.

After a few drinks, Bolaris and the women piled into a taxi heading to another bar.  On the way, Bolaris said, the women asked if he wouldn't mind stopping to see a painting a friend was selling for charity.  Bolaris said yes, but then the weatherman's memory becomes cloudy.

He said he did not regain full consciousness until the next morning, when he awoke in his own hotel suite.  Then, to his surprise, he received a call from the b-girls offering to return his sunglasses that they had inadvertently taken.

Bolaris himself wanted to return the painting and agreed to meet up with the girls again that evening.  According to Bolaris, they met him at the hotel and took a cab together to return the piece of art.  On the way, the girls disembarked at an unmarked storefront and "whistle[d]" at him to join them inside.

"And next thing I know, I'm passed out," said Bolaris.

He woke up on March 30 feeling "very sick" and "extremely worried" because he had no recollection of the previous night.

Instead of hearing from the girls again, Bolaris received a call from his credit card company, American Express, detailing charges of $43,712.25, including a $2,480 charge for the painting.

When Bolaris attempted to dispute the charges, American Express referred him to a man named Stan Pavlenko, who was later indicted in the case and has pleaded not guilty.  Pavlenko had supplied a photograph of Bolaris at the bar to the credit card company in an attempt to legitimate the charges.

Despite evidence that located him at a bar called Caviar, Bolaris vowed to fight the expenses.  He eventually connected with the FBI, which had launched a full-scale investigation of the Eastern European criminal activities in the South Beach clubs.

After spending 13 months and more than an estimated $1 million investigating the case, the FBI staged a birthday party at one of the clubs to arrest the bar girls and their managers.  The agency raided the club fully armed, arresting 16 suspects, including almost a dozen b-girls and a handful of male managers and accountants.

The case against Pavlenko and others who have pleaded not guilty will head to federal court in October.  Bolaris and the b-girls are expected to testify.

Bolaris lost his job as a weatherman in Philadelphia after the b-girls scandal made headlines.  But there was a silver lining: He won a court battle against American Express -- the credit card company repaid him the $43,000 it originally charged and also forked over thousands more in damages.

Watch the full story on 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May012012

Feds Catch Navy Veterans Charity 'Scammer'

Multnomah County Sheriff's Dept./U.S. Marshals(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- The man accused of setting up a fake Navy Veterans charity and siphoning away millions of dollars was captured by U.S. Marshals in Portland, Ore., after nearly two years on the run.

The alleged con artist, who went by the name Bobby Thompson, continued to refuse to reveal his identity after Marshals took him into custody Monday night, according to the Ohio Attorney General's office.

"We've been following him all over the country," Pete Elliott, the U.S. Marshal in northern Ohio who headed the three-man fugitive task force, told ABC News. "We finally caught up with him last night."

Investigators are still unsure of the true identity of "Thompson" and will be working on that as well as identifying his ongoing criminal activity. "Thompson" was transported to the Multnomah County Jail where he will await extradition to Northern Ohio.

Elliott called the case "one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date."

As detailed in an ABC News investigation, the mustachioed man known as Thompson was charged in Ohio in 2010 on counts of identity theft, fraud, and money laundering in connection with a bogus charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association that raised more than $100 million from unsuspecting donors around the country.

To help enhance the charity's credibility, Thompson allegedly used some of the money to make large campaign contributions to prominent politicians, most of them Republicans, including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Ohio Rep. John Boehner, now Speaker of the House. He attended events with the political figures, and posed proudly for now infamous photos with them.

"We are relieved Bobby Thompson is now in federal custody after a nationwide manhunt and years of work within the Attorney General's Office to track him down," Ohio Attorney General DeWine said. "We still don't know the true identity of the man known as Bobby Thompson, who has used the identity of several other people throughout the years. But we commend the teamwork with our federal partners in this case. This case sends a strong message that we will not tolerate scam artists in Ohio."

Elliott told the St. Petersburg Times, which first began raising questions about the charity in 2009, that the man seemed shocked at finding agents on his doorstep, but said nothing.

"He just said he wasn't going to give us any information. And he hasn't," Elliott told the newspaper.

The fugitive had neither a beard nor mustache when he was arrested, the paper reported. Otherwise, Elliott said, he looked the same, but was in "poor" physical condition and walking with a cane. He was carrying a backpack with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Earlier in 2012, Elliott told ABC News he believed the marshals were on Thompson's heels, and closing in.

"We've developed some really good leads and we're on those leads," he said. "I feel very confident we'll be able to apprehend him."

In 2009, the first questions began surfacing about the veterans' charity, with the Florida paper finding that none of the members of its board could be located, and its addresses seemed only to lead to post office boxes. Most of the money the charity had purported to raise was unaccounted for, and as authorities began following up on the reports, Thompson vanished.

In the fall of 2011, Florida lawmaker Darryl Rouson told ABC News he had initially helped the man he thought was Bobby Thompson. "He seemed to be a knowledgeable man about politics and community affairs," Rouson said. "He was engaging, jovial. I had no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was."

Thompson had last been seen in the lobby of a New York City hotel as Ohio authorities had begun investigating the veterans' charity. Ohio officials said Thompson had stolen the identity of a real man named Bobby Thompson from Washington state. He also had an identity card from the state of Indiana issued under the name of a man from New Mexico named Ronnie Brittain, they added. The real Ronnie Brittain is the head of a veterans group in New Mexico.

Marshals based in Ohio took over the manhunt last year, with Elliott heading up the effort.

Elliott told the Times, "We went to Arizona, West Virginia, Washington state, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. He was on the move the whole time. We went from being 10 steps behind him to being five steps to being one step."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Texas Teen Indicted for Faking Cancer

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HORIZON CITY, Texas) -- Police in Horizon City, Texas say they have arrested a teenager whose false tale of her fight against cancer got neighbors to open their hearts -- and their wallets.

Nineteen-year-old Angie Gomez was busted on Friday and charged with felony theft by deception and tossed in jail; her bond was set on $50,000.

In January of 2011, Gomez told her classmates her childhood cancer had reappeared and she was given six months to live. Her community rallied around the supposedly sick teen, creating a charity in her honor and stuffing some $17,000 in cash, gift cards and other donations into her pot, according to the El Paso Times.

In June of 2011, cops started investigating her when she didn't appear to be at death's door at all. As it turns out, there was never any evidence Gomez had cancer as a child. Her mother told detectives she was never told about the scam.

It's not known if the money in the bank account of Angie Gomez' Achieve the Dream Foundation has been returned to donors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

"Millionaire Matchmaker" Con Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud

Hemera/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A supposed mega-millionaire who appeared on the Bravo television series The Millionaire Matchmaker has been exposed as a Tampa, Fla.-based scam artist after federal prosecutors blew the whistle on him as a fraudster, leading him to plead guilty in court this week.

Michael Anthony Prozer III, who appeared on season two of the hit Bravo series that matches single wealthy people with potential spouses, pled guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, according to a written statement from U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill.

Claiming to own a mansion and a private jet, Prozer, a father of two young boys, seemed to be a man who had everything except a woman to complete his lavish lifestyle.

Prozer told television audiences that he was the millionaire CEO of Xchangeagent Inc., an online payment service for people in South America.  The lie he has been living for years completely unraveled on Tuesday when he pled guilty to charges relating to a scheme to defraud Park Avenue Bank in Valdosta, Ga.

Xchangeagent Inc. recruited a financial specialist to aide in a scheme to defraud the bank by obtaining a short-term business loan purportedly secured by non-existent collateral, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

"[Prozer] was able to bribe [the financial specialist] to demonstrate he had millions of dollars deposited in the bank," criminal defense attorney Dana Cole told ABC News.  "That's what makes him convincing, is that he can tell the world, 'Hey you know the bank says I'm a multi-millionaire, so I must be.'"  Cole has no connection to the case.

The duo produced fraudulent bank statements and documents in order to convince officials at Park Avenue Bank that Prozer had $21 million in deposits at a bank in Maryland.  The scheme lost the Georgia bank about $3 million.

Now, three years after the reality-TV show that gave him national recognition, Prozer is behind bars facing a multi-year sentence in federal prison.

"Like many con men, the lie eventually unravels," Cole said.  "People realize there's nothing there at the end of the day.  And that's how you get found out, the money doesn't materialize, so lawsuits then turn into criminal investigations and those then turn into indictments."

The guilty plea came as a shock to court watchers, who were expecting a trial to begin.  A jury had even been selected.

"I think he figured that the government had the goods on him, his frauds had been exposed," Cole said, "and it was time to cut his losses and enter an early guilty plea."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May102011

Female Pickpocket Ring Allegedly Steals $500,000

Courtesy of Sterling Heights Police Department(STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich.) -- If you're at the mall in Sterling Heights, Mich., don't assume that sweet, old lady in a hat just returned from the royal wedding. She might be there to rob you.

Police in the tiny Detroit suburb say an all-female criminal ring made up of middle-aged and elderly women are running a sophisticated con in which they allegedly pick the pockets of unsuspecting shoppers and use the stolen credit cards elsewhere.

Nicknamed the "Mad Hatters," the ring is made up of at least six women who frequently wear hats to disguise their identities and have allegedly swiped more than $500,000 in the past year and half, authorities say.

One bank alone estimated it had lost at least $200,000 at the hands of the hatters.

Some members of the group work as pickpockets, allegedly stealing credit cards and cash, usually from women at local shops. Other members commit the fraud, allegedly using the stolen cards to make purchases mostly in Macomb County but in the four surrounding counties as well.

The hats run the gambit from floppy beach hats to a variety of berets colored black, white and blue.

Police are investigating several leads that have come in since images of the women began circulating on Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

Miami Beach Bar Girls Defrauded Men at Nightclubs, Say Feds

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A sultry hostess, a seedy nightclub and an amorous out-of-towner with a loose grip on his credit card.

According to the FBI, "b girls" at six Miami Beach clubs who were part of an international crime ring used that recipe to defraud nearly 100 male tourists out of as much as $43,000 at a time.

"This international organized crime group has victimized tourists and defrauded them of tens of thousands of dollars," said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami field office of the FBI. "The crimes this group committed have impacted our south Florida community and our economy. The dismantlement and disruption of this organized crime group reaffirms the FBI's and our law enforcement partner's commitment to remove organized crime from our neighborhoods."

"South Florida, by virtue of its geography, is a gateway for domestic and international travel and business," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer said. "Unfortunately, we also attract criminal elements, including transnational criminal organizations and groups like the one involved in this South Beach tourist scam. ...Without hesitation, I can tell you that our investigations into transnational criminal organizations operating in South Florida will continue."

Earlier this month, the FBI arrested six men and 10 alleged "b girls" linked to the scheme on federal charges that include wire fraud, immigration fraud and bribery. If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 10 years for each immigration fraud count and 15 years for each bribery count. Federal authorities are still seeking nightclub operator Alex Simchuk, a suspect who remains at large.

Authorities say the "b girls," from Estonia, Latvia and Russia were chosen for their beauty and brought to the U.S. expressly to prey on tourists. Working in pairs they would look for marks at swanky South Beach hotels like the Delano or the Clevelander and then entice them to one of the nightclubs.

At the clubs, according to the FBI, the bar girls would order their guests multiple bottles of liquor, wine or champagne at exorbitant prices -- as much as $5,000 -- often without the knowledge of the patron. The girls would pour drinks into plants, ice buckets or other large containers so that the guest would be sure to order more. Later the victim would find thousands of dollars of mysterious charges on his credit card bill.

A victim from Philadelphia identified in the U.S. Attorney's criminal complaint only as "J.B." was hit with the biggest credit card bill of the 88 alleged marks. J.B. was approached at the Delano Hotel in March 2010 by two females. He says he had drinks with them, but then his memory became vague.

According to the complaint, "His fuzzy recollection was of people physically holding him up at an unknown location and having him sign something three times."

The same thing allegedly happened the next night. J.B. learned a few days later that his credit card had been charged $43,000 for items that included a painting on the bar's wall. He continues to dispute the credit card charges and alleges that he was drugged by the women.

According to authorities, the club where his recollections grew fuzzy was called the Caviar Bar, and was operated by Simchuk and another man.

On many occasions, says the complaint, victims were either too drunk to sign a credit card receipt or staff at the club would forge the signature at the end of the night. If a guest complained the next morning, managers at the club would explain that he had ordered all of the drinks and show him receipts and surveillance video from the club, threatening to call the local police if the tab wasn't paid.

The bar girls, who worked in pairs, allegedly split an average 20 percent cut, while managers and bartenders each received 10 percent.

The clubs themselves, say authorities, were merely fronts for the rip-offs. They weren't open to the public, and any would-be customer who wasn't accompanied by a pair of bar girls was denied entrance. The men running the clubs allegedly arranged to have the bar girls brought to the U.S. and housed them in apartments while they participated in the scam. In some cases, the women were trained overseas before coming to the Miami area.

The FBI's investigation of the clubs involved an undercover agent who posed as a corrupt local police officer who moonlighted as a bouncer. According to the complaint, the duties of the undercover "bouncer" included checking IDs of the bar girls at the door, pretending he didn't know them and making sure victims paid their bills by identifying himself as a police officer.

The undercover agent also obtained pills at some of the clubs, including a herbal sleep aid and capsules believed to be tranquilizers, according to the complaint. He was told by alleged coconspirators that at least one of the women had drugged victims in the past.

The clubs involved were all located along Washington Avenue in South Miami Beach. Caviar Bar was closed after American Express received so many complaints of fraudulent charges that it shut off the bar's merchant account, but the club reopened three months later as Stars Lounge and allegedly continued the scheme until it was shut down again for the same reason. Other clubs included Nowhere Bar, Steel Toast and the Tangia Club. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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