A Monroe, New York, man became the unwitting middleman in a sweepstakes-style international lottery scam that had the potential of bilking tens of thousands of dollars from its victims, police said.
Monroe police Detective Jim Frankild worked with Warminster, Pa., police to investigate the scam, which, according to Frankild, went like this: A con man calls an elderly Warminster woman and tells her that she's the second-place winner of the Canadian lottery, even though she never played. The victim is asked to send cash by Federal Express to a Monroe post office box as a fee on taxes for the $400,000 prize.
When the woman called the con artist with the tracking number, he then told her the first-place lottery winner had been deported as an illegal immigrant. As a result, the grand prize of $800,000 also would go to the woman. The con man asks her to send $8,000 more to cover the fees for taxes.
But a FedEx employee, who apparently asked the woman about the packages, grew suspicious when she told him the story. The employee called Warminster police, who asked Monroe police to investigate the post office box.
Monroe officers did and recovered another five FedEx envelopes containing $36,890 in cash. The packages came from multiple locations and as far away as California. Police also recovered the $12,000 sent by the Warminster woman.
Detectives traced the registration of the post office box to a 52-year-old man, who claimed to have been fooled by a friend. The man told police that he was asked by the friend to open the post office box and to forward the packages - which he believed to be documents - to an international charity abroad. The man, who was not charged with a crime, is helping detectives.
The investigation traced all the initial phone calls and the final forwarding addresses in the scam to locations outside of the United States. The FBI is still tracking them for leads.
Meanwhile, Monroe police warn all seniors to be aware. The con men try to discourage victims from telling anyone else that they have been contacted, said Frankild.
"It is important that if someone falls for these scams, that they immediately contact their local police," he said.