Long Beach Man Gets $160,000 Returned After Fraud
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes to retired widower's aid after he was victimized in Canadian lottery scam
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents return funds to a retired Long Beach widower victimized by a Canadian lottery scam (March 10, 2011)
The cashier's and bank checks returned to the retired engineer Wednesday by ICE HSI were recovered by investigators as part of Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing), a bi-national effort involving numerous agencies, including ICE, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Security and Investigation Services for Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
ICE HSI agents say the victim was contacted by two women, one posing as a representative of the Internal Revenue Service, and another purporting to be from the U.S. Department of Justice. The women told the man that to obtain the lottery prize he would have to forward them money to pay the taxes on his winnings. He ultimately sent three checks representing most of his life savings.
The California scam was detected through similar fraud reports in Maryland and Minnesota, based on phone calls and mail from lottery scammers in Montreal. Canadian postal employees subsequently intercepted more than a dozen cash-filled envelopes sent to the thieves. Agents from the ICE HSI office in Montreal played a prominent role in the investigation.
"This man was very fortunate investigators were able to get his money back," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "Sadly, that's often not the case. While ICE HSI and its enforcement partners are doing everything possible to stop this kind of fraud, the first line of defense is for people to be suspicious of anyone who calls and asks them to send money."