Sheriff, officials thwart scam

Last week, the Richardson County Sheriff’s office warned the public about a phone scam that was circulating around the county. The scammers promised a large cash winning prize, as well as a Mercedes vehicle to the people they were contacting.

On May 21, the Richardson County Sheriff’s Department received a call from a county resident who said that at that time a family member was on the phone with the scammers. The person on the phone was a male voice who spoke “good English.” He stated they were on their way to the victim’s residence with a Mercedes and $100,000 cash as the result of a winning drawing in the Publisher’s Clearing House prize package.

At that time, Sheriff Randy Houser went to the residence of the victim, who was still on the phone with the scam suspect, who was requesting the resident send them $35,000 in cash in order to accept the prize. Sheriff Houser activated his recorder and took over the phone call.

He advised that he was the Sheriff of Richardson County and he demanded the suspects give him a return phone number, which they refused to do.  Sheriff Houser advised the suspects that this was a scam and to not call the residence again. The suspect on the phone became argumentative and then Houser terminated the call. But the suspects called back again and the Sheriff answered the phone as “Richardson County Sheriff.”  Once again, the suspect on the phone stated that they were expecting the cash payment.

Houser contacted SE Nebraska Communications and placed a “trap” on the victim’s phone line. The victim then advised the Sheriff that the suspects had been given bank information the day before on a previous call. Houser contacted the bank and advised the bank of the situation.

The victim then advised Houser that $18,965 in cash had been sent to the suspects the day before by “Express Mail.” The package was addressed to a name and address in Brooklyn, NY. Houser contacted the Nebraska State Patrol who advised that they would forward this matter to the FBI. Sheriff Houser retained the mail documents from the victim and left the residence and went to the Falls City Post Office.

At the post office, the Sheriff was assisted by Postmistress Laddie Helms and Clerk Ed Kirkendall. They immediately contacted the post office in Brooklyn to try to stop delivery of the package.  But they were told that the package was signed for and delivered to the name and address in Brooklyn only 20 minutes earlier.  Houser immediately contacted the New York City Police Department and was directed to a detective in Manhattan. After giving the detective the name on the package, the detective said the individual had an extensive history with the NYPD. The detective said the case should be handled by the U.S. Postal Service Inspector’s Office. The Sheriff called that office in New York and had to leave a voice mail.

After finally making contact with the U.S. Postal Service Inspector the next day, Houser explained the situation.  It was then that two U.S. Postal Inspectors went to the address on the package and made contact with a 23-year-old female.

She admitted to the scam and to receiving the package of $18,965 in cash.  She decided to cooperate with the Postal Inspectors.

It was determined that the female in Brooklyn still had approximately $16,000 of the cash on hand.  They rest of the money had been spent on items, including a plane ticket to Jamaica.  The Postal Inspectors confiscated the remaining cash and made arrangements with Houser to have the money mailed back to the RC Sheriff’s Office.  Sheriff Houser will return the money to the victim in the case.

It is not known if the female was acting alone in the scam or was taking part in a much larger scam with people in Jamaica.  The investigation is ongoing with the U.S. Postal Service.  The victim in the case is rather lucky to see any of the money come back.  Thanks were expressed to Sheriff Houser, Southeast Nebraska Communications, Falls City Postal employees, Nebraska State Patrol, NYPD and the U.S. Postal Inspectors in New York for taking part in recovering a portion of the money.  Sheriff Houser said that “everything fell in line” in the case at the start of the investigation and that normally finding the suspect and recovering the money does not happen.

This case serves as a reminder never to give any personal information, banking information or credit card information to anyone over the phone or to anyone you do not know is credible.  In receiving these types of scam calls, just simply hand up the phone.  These individuals are very persistent and persuasive, so the longer you talk, the more they can make the call seem somewhat realistic.

Information for this report was furnished by Jeff Frederick of the Richardson County Sheriff’s Office.

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