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Once a victim, retiree allegedly joined scammers to bilk others

Scam AlertScam Alert: Once a victim, retiree allegedly joined scammers to bilk others

Authorities allege that Thomas Murphy, 68, became a "mule" for an overseas ring that took in $800,000

They preyed on the elderly — often by trolling obituaries for new widows or widowers — and enticed them into believing they'd won a lottery but needed to pay the tax on their winnings to claim them.

Thomas Murphy, 68, a retired principal, teacher and coach from Henderson, Minn., started as a victim. Then, police say, he joined the scam in a failed attempt to try to recoup his losses.

Authorities allege that Murphy, a widower with two master's degrees and no criminal record, eventually helped bilk elderly strangers out of more than $800,000. He worked at it for more than a year, and when police came to arrest him, he had $10,000 in his freezer, according to case documents.

Bill White, a special agent with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said Murphy's own victimization is thin justification for what he is alleged to have done.

"You're a criminal now. You're not a schmuck," White said. "Just because you feel like you're a victim, you can't victimize other people."

Prosecutors who filed felony racketeering charges against Murphy say he was a "mule" for the operation, collecting from victims and wiring money to overseers in the Philippines, where they remain out of reach of U.S. authorities.

Investigators say Murphy ultimately didn't get an appreciable cut of what he scammed.

Among the victims was an 88-year-old woman who lost $290,000. She told White in tears that she was forced to sell her home and move in with her son.

"They are unbelievable predators," White said. "They won't stop with just the money people have."

Thought he'd won $2 million

Charges say Murphy admitted accepting delivery of thousands from victims, then obeyed instructions on where to wire it. He claimed he did not know any of the victims and did not contact them himself. Confronted by investigators, Murphy allegedly showed them multiple express-mail packages, wire transfer receipts and the cash in his freezer, which he allegedly received that day from another mule in Missouri.

Sibley County prosecutors charged Murphy on Oct. 15. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Police arrested him last weekend. He was held in the Sibley County jail on Tuesday in lieu of $200,000 bail, pending a Thursday court appearance. He did not yet have an attorney, and jail staff declined to pass to him a request from a reporter for comment.

AARP spokeswoman Amy McDonough said such scams commonly target the elderly, some of whom are too embarrassed to report it. The scammers often pose as someone with authority, such as an IRS agent.

According to charges:

Murphy first called the Sheriff's Office in September 2009 and reported receiving a phone call a month earlier from a David Bauman, who told him that he had won $2 million. But Bauman said that the taxes on the winnings would be $436,000 and that he would have to pay at least some of that before receiving the money.

Murphy sent more than $120,000 before realizing he'd been scammed.

He contacted the Sheriff's Office again in January to report phone calls from Bauman and his associates threatening to take his home if he did not pay more. Authorities told Murphy to notify them if the scammers called again. Six months later, the IRS alerted local authorities that Murphy had wired large amounts of money, primarily to the Philippines. When questioned, Murphy admitted that he had gone to work for Bauman, an identity that White said is likely fake.

Overseas scam artists commonly use so-called mules, White said, adding that Murphy's name and Minnesota address lent credibility to the scheme. The scammers often use the money to finance drug activity and other criminal enterprises, White said.

'Web of fraud'

White, in law enforcement for 29 years, said the scam that snagged Murphy is "the most unbelievable web of fraud I've worked on."

Murphy was a teacher, principal and coach in the Le Sueur-Henderson School District for decades before retiring about 10 years ago. In retirement he volunteered for the district as a cross-country coach, but he's been suspended pending the outcome of the case, said Superintendent Dave Johnson.

"Tom was a really good-hearted teacher, coach and administrator," Johnson said. "This is a shock. A big shock."

Visited first in July, Murphy allegedly handed investigators 24 different packages full of cash, along with notes and envelopes. A month later, when investigators asked why he joined a group that tricked him, he responded: "Blind faith."

On Oct. 10 Murphy reported to the Gaylord Police Department for an interview. There, he supplied the remainder of the receipts for money he'd forwarded, totaling $800,601.94. His victims, from throughout the country, were almost all elderly.

"Murphy showed no remorse for assisting in victimizing other elderly people," the charges said. "Murphy summarized by saying he screwed up and can't do anything about it now."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Star Tribune

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10 comments. Last comment 6 years ago by Hermanus104.
Page 1 of 1
Avatar
Sunny California
United States
Member #40295
May 31, 2006
7713 Posts
Offline
Posted: October 20, 2010, 10:07 am - IP Logged

This is a story of greed, plain and simple. Shame on you,coach!

    savagegoose's avatar - ProfilePho
    adelaide sa
    Australia
    Member #37136
    April 11, 2006
    3316 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: October 20, 2010, 11:14 am - IP Logged

    and i always thought school teachers where smart.

    that really is a sad story of decline form respected pilar of society, to worthless scum.

    what ever happend to " treat others as you would have them treat you? "

    2014 = -1016; 2015= -1409; 2016  = -1171; 2017 = ?  TOT =  -3596

    keno historic = -2291 ; 2015= -603; 2016= -424; 2017 = ? TOT = - 3318

      Avatar
      New Member

      United States
      Member #99150
      October 20, 2010
      11 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: October 20, 2010, 1:29 pm - IP Logged

      "You're a criminal now. You're not a schmuck," white said.

      White is wrong.  Murphy IS a schmuck. I hope he's the most popular girl at the prison Sadie Hawkins dance.

        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
        mid-Ohio
        United States
        Member #9
        March 24, 2001
        19901 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: October 20, 2010, 1:33 pm - IP Logged

        As a retired school principal, teacher and coach with two master's degrees, Thomas Murphy probably had plenty of other opportunities to make some extra cash but bilking the elderly was so much easier.

         * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
           
                     Evil Looking       

          Like2Win's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
          Glen Burnie, MD
          United States
          Member #69239
          January 6, 2009
          1425 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: October 20, 2010, 1:52 pm - IP Logged

          As a retired school principal, teacher and coach with two master's degrees, Thomas Murphy probably had plenty of other opportunities to make some extra cash but bilking the elderly was so much easier.

          Just because you are well-educated doesn't mean you have common sense..there's no degree you can get for that. Shame on him.

            jeffrey's avatar - moon
            Hamilton, OH
            United States
            Member #4162
            March 27, 2004
            277 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: October 21, 2010, 1:44 am - IP Logged

            Just because you are well-educated doesn't mean you have common sense..there's no degree you can get for that. Shame on him.

            Ah, I never met many smart teachers. Hard to teach someone who knows a lot more. I know not to fall for scams. People get what they deserve. I feel for them but that's the way the world works. I hope the head scammers get eaten alive by cats.


              United States
              Member #68713
              December 28, 2008
              301 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: October 21, 2010, 9:15 am - IP Logged

              As a retired school principal, teacher and coach with two master's degrees, Thomas Murphy probably had plenty of other opportunities to make some extra cash but bilking the elderly was so much easier.

              There a case history that " say the victim sometime become the abuser" and this is no different given the opportunity.Unhappy However, I am sad for him  but,  disapprove of his solution to his problem Disapprove.No No

                RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                mid-Ohio
                United States
                Member #9
                March 24, 2001
                19901 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: October 21, 2010, 1:32 pm - IP Logged

                Among the victims was an 88-year-old woman who lost $290,000. She told White in tears that she was forced to sell her home and move in with her son.

                I consider myself an extreme lottery player loosing an average of $2300 yearly trying to win a jackpot but it would take me over a hundred years to lose that amount even playing as I do.

                 * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                   
                             Evil Looking       


                  United States
                  Member #1630
                  June 7, 2003
                  6011 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: October 21, 2010, 6:38 pm - IP Logged

                  As a retired school principal, teacher and coach with two master's degrees, Thomas Murphy probably had plenty of other opportunities to make some extra cash but bilking the elderly was so much easier.

                  That's the truth RJOh!!!!! He could have done numerous other things like teaching, tutoring, as a retired school principal, teacher and coach, you know he had a nice pension and social security.  It doesn't pay to be greedy, I bet he wishes he could turn back the hands of time and just be satisfied with the  money he earned and never messed with the lottery scam.  Once he lost his money he just should have cut his losses and moved on, instead he has lost his freedom, his health due to the stress and his happiness.  He was rich with his education and the income he retired with and his health, he just wasn't satisfied with that and that is unfortunate.

                    Hermanus104's avatar - 5027340606 1e360c8038_s.jpg
                    Northern Virginia
                    United States
                    Member #83350
                    December 5, 2009
                    1322 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: October 21, 2010, 10:32 pm - IP Logged

                    Crime does not pay ... even if it bilks you the first time around.

                    Today's winning 3-ball is going to be a number between 000 and 999.

                    In a lot of states, lotteries benefit education. That makes the REAL winners the only people who can't play!