Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Woman warned: Quit aiding scam

An Athens woman shipped packages to Africa for months before authorities told her this week she was unwittingly helping an international criminal.
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The woman met Moshood Olantunde Olateju in an online chat room in March, and he spent two months winning her confidence, Athens-Clarke police said.

Then in May, the Nigerian man asked her if she would accept packages of goods he bought from U.S. companies, then forward them, police said.

She apparently believed his explanation that it would cost less if she forwarded packages to him than if he had them shipped directly to him in Nigeria, police said.

The woman didn’t receive any financial benefits from the arrangement, and just thought she was helping out a friend who paid all the shipping costs and even supplied pre-addressed FedEx labels for her to slap on the packages, according to police.

The Nigerian man used the Athens woman as an intermediary because he was buying things with stolen credit card numbers; if any of the packages were intercepted by U.S. Customs officials, she would take the fall, police said.

“She didn’t have a clue” she was abetting a criminal, said Detective Beverly Russell, an Athens-Clarke police Financial Crimes Unit investigator.

“It literally amazes me that people do not understand that what people say on Facebook and MySpace is not gospel,” she said. “Guess what? People are going to lie to you.”

The relationship between the local woman, who is 23, and the Nigerian man began innocently enough, chatting about themselves, their families, their likes and dislikes.

“Some criminals target lonely hearts or people who have a hard time developing personal relationships,” Russell said. “It’s much easier for these kinds of people to have online relationships, and after they’ve been chatting with someone for months or a year, that person will ask them to do something for them.”

Olateju had been on Office Max’s radar for some time, using stolen credit card numbers to buy computers and other goods, then have them sent to addresses in the U.S., according to Russell.

The company received many faxed orders from Olateju, and officials began alerting local police when the instructions were to ship packages to domestic addresses, Russell said.

On Monday, the detective and a supervisor visited Olateju’s Athens friend to tell her she was involved with a criminal and needed to cut ties with him.

“We told her we wouldn’t arrest her this time, because she didn’t know anything about stolen credit cards and there was no criminal intent, but if she does it again she’d be guilty of credit card fraud,” Russell said.

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August 26, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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