ST. PAUL — An international romance scam and money-laundering operation has been stopped due to the cooperation between agents with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division
(AGED), Rice County Sheriff’s Office and London Police. Two suspects, a 24-year-old Nigerian man and a 39-year-old Argentine woman, have been located, charged and are being held by London courts.
In December 2011, the Rice County Sheriff’s Office approached AGED for assistance in a suspected fraud case involving a 69-year-old county resident. The woman had met one of the suspects on the match.com dating website and wired $1,000 to the suspect in London.
In romance scams, the victim meets the scammer via the Internet in a chat room or on a dating website. Scammers ask for money by citing emergencies, such as hotel room robbery, car crash or medical needs. Scammers sometimes have victims receive and forward items purchased through the unauthorized use of someone else’s credit card.
The suspect requested additional assistance in the amount of $50,000 from the Minnesota victim. When she attempted to transfer $50,000 from her account, officials at her bank became suspicious and alerted AGED Special Agent Bill White.
During the course of the investigation, other victims in the United States were identified. Agent White and Detective Yetzer with the Rice County Sheriff’s Office obtained evidence from the victim in Rice County which identified the bank account to which the victims had transferred funds. With the account information, London constables were able to apprehend the suspects and freeze their bank accounts.
During the investigation, Agent White spoke with two other victims and determined their losses to be more than $250,000.
“We were able to put a stop to this fraud because law enforcement agencies here in Minnesota and abroad were able to work together,” Agent White said. “Recognizing and reporting possible scams are the keys to preventing further victimization and shutting down these operations.”