Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Man gets probation for part in Internet scam

Posted 12 days ago

A 53-year-old local man discovered this week that Internet get-rich-quick schemes can not only disappoint, they can land you in court.

Mark Lawrence pleaded guilty in Kingston’s Ontario Court of Justice to using a forged cheque for $19,000, ostensibly from a financial institution in British Columbia, which he deposited in his account. His sentencing was suspended, he was placed on probation for 12 months and ordered to perform 100 hours of free community service.

Assistant Crown attorney Elizabeth Foxton told the judge that Lawrence’s involvement with the fraudulent scheme occurred last March, when he deposited a $4,000 cheque from Kentucky in his credit union account and asked to be notified when it cleared. Several days later, he deposited a second cheque for $3,500 from an Illinois bank, with the same instruction.

Neither cheque ever did clear, according to Foxton, because both turned out to be bogus. The bank notified Kingston Police, who spoke to Lawrence about his involvement.

The prosecutor told Justice Rommel Masse that Lawrence admitted he’d fallen for one of the many come-ons littering the information highway, schemes that promise fast and suspiciously substantial rewards to anyone willing to act as a middleman and perform a seemingly small banking service.

The scheme Lawrence bought into operated on the premise that he would use his legitimate credit union account to convert financial instruments like cheques into cash, collect 10% off the top and forward the balance of the money back to the cheque’s putative owner.

Foxton said police warned him after the first two cheques to steer clear of the such Internet fraudsters and he promised to do so. He didn’t keep that promise and he was charged, Foxton told Masse, when he deposited a third cheque for $19,000, purportedly from a financial institution in B.C.

Foxton said Lawrence told one of the credit union’s financial officers that he was working with CrimeStoppers trying to stop the scammers and even provided the name of an officer, who was contacted and said he’d never heard of Lawrence.

Lawrence suggested that was a misunderstanding and he denies ever making that claim. He also told Masse that he didn’t know anything about an intercepted counterfeit money order for $2,369 that was made out in his name.

After hearing the evidence, Masse said the fraud in which Lawrence entangled himself sounded a lot like the class of scams that have come to be known as “Nigerian schemes”, named after the country where they initially proliferated. They operate on variations of a set story line: A claim of riches the holder can’t access without government agents or some other legal or regulatory glitch plundering or tying up the funds, unless some kindly stranger will help, for which they will be generously rewarded.

The fraudsters’ hope is that the lure of quick profit will make a percentage of those strangers reckless; that their financial institutions will actually cash whatever instrument they’ve deposited, most likely because it’s fully secured by the account holder’s own assets, and the account holder will end up forwarding his or her own cash to crooks.


February 17, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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