Thomas W. Fowler, Chief of Police
24 Railroad Ave.
Salisbury, MA 01952
For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 19, 2014
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Salisbury Police Warn of Trans-National Computer Scams with Local Ties
Texas Woman Swindled out of Diamond — Alleged Suspect Was Also Being Scammed
SALISBURY – Police Chief Thomas Fowler and the Salisbury Police Department are seeking to inform the public about a series of complicated and convoluted internet scams involving victims across the country and a suspect in Salisbury who was, himself, being used by scam artists on the other side of the world.
A MALE, AGE 68, OF SALISBURY will be summonsed to Newburyport District Court at a later date to face charges of receiving stolen property, after he was allegedly tricked by international scam artists posing as a woman seeking a romantic connection.
The international scammers were using fake PayPal accounts to trick sellers on Craigslist into shipping valuable items to the man in Salisbury, and then they pretended to be a French woman with a romantic connection to the man, and used that relationship to talk him into pawning the items and sending the money to a location in Africa.
“This is a complex case, involving multiple jurisdictions, where we allege that an individual was tricked into fencing stolen items from victims across the country and was being used by international scam artists to funnel money overseas,” Chief Fowler said. “Thankfully, we were able to put a stop to this and return several pieces of stolen merchandise to their rightful owners.”
On May 5, the Salisbury Police Criminal Investigations Division was made aware of two separate online computer scams with ties to Salisbury. A Fort Bend, Texas police detective forwarded an internet-based theft report involving Craigslist and PayPal to Salisbury Detective Keith Forget. The victim in Texas had agreed to sell a diamond ring she posted on Craigslist for $1,600. A potential buyer offered to purchase the ring and pay her by using a PayPal account.
Thinking she had received a payment, the victim mailed the ring to an address on Northend Boulevard on Salisbury Beach, and was subsequently notified by PayPal that the account used to make payment was fraudulent. The victim never received the money owed to her.
When Salisbury Police investigators went to the local address, they located a vacant summer rental style home. Through the course of the investigation, and with the assistance of the United States Postal Inspection Service, it was discovered that multiple high dollar items offered for sale on Craigslist were mailed to this same address. The Postal Service subsequently recovered several of the items that had been mailed to the address.
The 68-year-old male suspect who received the packages was identified and contacted. He voluntarily came to the Salisbury Police Station to be interviewed and is cooperating fully with the investigation.
The suspect told police that he was also the victim of an online internet scam targeting seniors. He revealed that while he was renting the Northend Boulevard apartment, using an adult dating website, he met who he believed to be a young woman living in France, and they formed an online relationship. She informed him that several packages would be coming to his house that contained high dollar items.
She requested that he either pawn the items and send the money to her, or ship them directly to Oyo, Nigeria, which he did. He believed that she was saving the money to come to America to live with him.
Police advised the man that the woman most likely did not exist and that the scammers overseas were using him as a middleman for their online fraud.
The investigation indicates that the international scammers were the ones targeting sellers across the U.S. They used fraudulent PayPal accounts to lure sellers to ship valuables to the 68-year-old man in Salisbury, who sold the items and sent the money to Africa, thinking he was helping his love interest.
Detective Forget was able to locate the Texas diamond ring in a pawn shop in Chelsea. He also identified and contacted several other victims from across the country, including one from Washington State, and several from Texas. Property from two more victims was recovered and will be sent back to their rightful owners.
Even though the Salisbury suspect was the victim of a scam himself, he is still responsible for the stolen items he received, and will be appearing in Newburyport District Court to answer to several charges of receiving stolen property.