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Cops: DeBary woman netted more than $25,000 in Nigerian check scam

The e-mails often begin in fractured English.

“Good day, dearest friend. Please permit me to introduce myself to you, to understand and comprehend clearly.”

So go the familiar pitches designed to part Americans from their cash. Known as Nigerian check scams because most originate in western Africa, they ask potential victims to deposit checks into their bank accounts and send a portion of the money to a stranger.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says a DeBary woman helped orchestrate one such scheme that netted her more than $25,000.

Investigators say Linda Stafford, 44, was helping run a scam out of her home. She was arrested Friday night on charges of running an organized scheme to defraud and was being held in jail on $50,000 bail.

Stafford also was arrested in January on the same charge and on a charge of grand theft. Deputies said they warned her in June to stop what she was doing, thinking she might not have realized that she was participating in illegal activity.

Stafford applied for a job as a payroll or accounts-receivable clerk, and someone in Nigeria told her she was hired, investigators said. The person directed her to buy a computer check-writing program, they said.

The person compiled personal information from other job applicants and gave Stafford the information so she could print checks to them, detectives said. The check recipients were told the money was for legitimate work or for scholarships or rebates, the Sheriff’s Office said.

About 15 people deposited the checks for $1,000 or $2,000 and sent most of the money back to Stafford by Western Union, investigators said. The people were told to keep a couple of hundred dollars.

By the time their banks told them the checks were worthless, it was too late.

Investigator Chuck Lee said Stafford mailed 1,022 fraudulent checks after being told last year that it was a scam. She received $26,835 from the 15 people, who live as far away as California, New Jersey, Texas and Colorado, and sent $1,300 to the person in Nigeria, he said.

So, dearest friend, if you receive this kind of a pitch, hit delete — or report it to authorities.

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May 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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