After having been alerted by a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. resident that he might be the victim of a scam advertised through the popular website, Craig’s List, Sheriff’s Office investigators were able to close down the local branch of the scam which operated out of a residence in Angie.
The scam involved a solicitation for an apartment maintenance person to work in Pittsburgh. Once the Pittsburgh resident answered the ad and expressed an interest in the maintenance position, he received an email response from a man identifying himself as Brandon Froome, offering him the position and stating that a check would be sent to cover his first week’s pay plus the cost of purchasing food and cleaning supplies for the apartment he would oversee.
The check arrived by overnight mail through the postal service. The victim was encouraged to deposit the check and to immediately withdraw his first week’s pay. Once the $1,985 check arrived, the potential scam victim became suspicious because the check had no water mark and appeared counterfeit. The scam victim then began an internet search for any information on Brandon Froome and discovered that similar scams were also operating throughout the United States.
Sheriff’s Office investigators determined through a tracking number that the check sent to the victim was mailed from a residence in Angie, Louisiana. Further investigation located the source of the check, an Angie resident who was also the victim of the scam. In this case, the lady had answered an advertisement for a payroll clerk and believed she was actually performing payroll work for a company. She, too, had answered a Craig’s List advertisement to do work out of her own home. According to the Angie resident, she was mailing approximately 300 letters and checks each week for approximately eight months. She did not know they were counterfeit and has not been charged.
The scam works in a simple way that benefits only the person issuing the counterfeit checks. After receipt of a check, the victim deposits it into his or her personal checking account and then quickly withdraws an amount equal to the first week’s salary. All of this occurs before the bank has the opportunity to verify the check. The next step is for the phony employer to contact the victim, stating that the check had been issued in the wrong amount and asking the victim to reimburse the employer $1,000. The end result is a $1,000 profit for the scammer and a loss for everyone else.
Sheriff’s Office investigators Capt. Tommie Sorrell, Lt. Glenn McClendon and Detective Damon Mitchell worked the case in cooperation with the Secret Service and postal investigators. The investigation continues on a federal level and it is suspected that all trails will lead to another country, possibly Nigeria or Jamaica.
Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal was quick to commend his investigators for their excellent work in solving a large nationwide scam. “Approximately 9,600 letters and checks were mailed within an eight month period. If only half of the victims responded by sending $1,000 to the scammer, that would result in an illegal profit of $4,800,000. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of persons throughout the United States may have been protected through the good work of our investigators.”
Sheriff Seal went on to warn anyone who seeks employment online to be cautious about applying and accepting any job when the only communication with a potential employer is through text messages, emails or any other social media.