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Converse man faces charges in bogus money-order scam

By Guillermo Contreras – Express-News A Converse man is in federal custody as part of an investigation into a so-called Nigerian scam that discovered more than $273,000 in counterfeit money orders headed for U.S. residents.

Zarnell Orlando Wilson, 47, is charged with dealing in counterfeit securities and a separate charge of possessing phony securities. Because Wilson’s public defender was not ready for a bail hearing Friday, a federal magistrate judge sent Wilson back to jail until a hearing this week.

Wilson, according to a court affidavit filed by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a middleman recruited by con artists in Nigeria.

The scheme was discovered Oct. 8, when agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Memphis, Tenn., intercepted a FedEx package that had been shipped from Nigeria. The package was headed to a home in the 8200 block of Brisbane in Converse.

Inside the package, agents found 319 money orders with a total value of $273,180 and determined they were counterfeit. The items were inventoried and sent on to the home in Converse, where ICE agents found that Wilson received the FedEx package and opened it, the affidavit said. The ICE agents also found UPS boxes at the home.

The affidavit said Wilson admitted to agents that he had been receiving counterfeit money orders from his Nigerian connections and re-mailing them to victims using UPS boxes. Wilson, who has his own criminal conviction for passing and possessing counterfeit checks, told ICE agents that he was to be paid about $300 a week for his participation.

Since the 1980s, Nigerian scams — which sometimes originate in other countries besides Nigeria — have targeted U.S. residents in a variety of forms, playing on greed. For instance, the scammers target people who sell items, such as cars, over the Internet, or lure them into a check-cashing scheme, promising large sums of money but deliver nothing more than fake checks or money orders.

For years, federal agencies, state attorneys general and other authorities have warned about the scams, but people continue to get caught in them.

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October 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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