A good Samaritan was taken for a ride he won't soon forget after he reported being scammed $7,000 by a man who said he won the lottery.
Here's what happened, according to the victim and a North Miami police report:
The victim, a 68-year-old Aventura, Florida, resident, was walking in the parking lot of Home Depot, 12055 Biscayne Blvd., at about 10:30 a.m. on a recent Wednesday when he was approached by a man who said he was an undocumented worker from Honduras and needed help finding a law office to get papers.
A second man then walked up and said he couldn't help but overhear the conversation. This man claimed he was a Christian and wanted to help, and knew of a law office in the area.
The victim told police he had some spare time and thought he might be able to help decide if the law office was legitimate, so he got in a car with the two men.
The man who claimed he was from Honduras then said he had a bigger problem: he had won the lottery but could not cash in the ticket because he did not have legal residency papers.
The second man then made a call to the "lottery commission." The victim said he could overhear the conversation, and was told that the ticket holder needed to provide $20,000 in "good faith money" to collect the winnings.
The victim said he could contribute $7,000. The second man said he could cover the remainder, and drove them to what he said was his bank in North Miami Beach. He went inside and later emerged with an envelope containing what appeared to be the $13,000.
The three then drove to the victim's bank, and he withdrew the $7,000.
The second man said they should get postage stamps from a post office, in order to mail in the money. The victim agreed to buy the stamps and walked into the post office with what he thought was the envelope containing his $7,000, but when he walked back out with the stamps, the two men had driven off. The victim discovered the envelope was stuffed with cut-up newspapers.
North Miami Detective Alanzo Rhymer, who investigates frauds said the crime is consistent with other scams he has seen in which con artists drive victims to their banks and then wait outside. But he noted "the subject also doesn't have to drive with the victim — it doesn't give the victim an opportunity to really notice the subject's face or recognize the vehicle the subject is driving."
Rhymer's advice: "Anything having to do with money, especially giving money to a stranger, you need to be really wary about the circumstance and if it sounds too good, more than likely it's not what you think it's going to be."
Anyone with information on this crime should call North Miami Police at 305-891-8111.