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Frank Gray

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In Kosciusko County, scams don’t go unseen

Over in Kosciusko County, they keep busting scammers.

The latest case took place last week, when two women from Illinois were arrested for running a scam using counterfeit checks.

The story is that a Kosciusko County man who was trying to sell furniture on Craigslist was contacted by someone who agreed to buy the goods sight unseen. The scammers sent the man a large check and asked him to cash the check, keep some money for himself and then send the rest of the cash, by way of UPS, to an address in Harvard, Ill.

The man smelled a rat and contacted the sheriff’s department, which agreed to look into it.

That’s what is unusual about Kosciusko County. A lot of police departments might brush off a complaint like that. Some might say that since the man wasn’t ripped off, there was no crime committed.

Over in Kosciusko County, though, they viewed the scheme as a conspiracy of sorts and started investigating.

Sgt. Chad Hill, the public information officer for the sheriff’s department, acknowledges that a lot of the people who get scammed in Kosciusko County are what could be called lost causes. They’ve wired away money that can be picked up by anyone anywhere in the world, and when that happens, a case is fundamentally unsolvable.

Once in a while, though, a scammer will slip up, and that’s what happened in this case. The scammers gave the mark, or potential victim, an address. The address was that of a vacant house, but it was still a lead.

With the cooperation of police in Harvard, Ill., who were astonished to learn that someone was running a scam in the little town of about 10,000 people near the Wisconsin border, Kosciusko investigators were able to arrest the scammers.

What they found were four different machines used to print checks and the names and addresses of hundreds of other marks.

The two women who were arrested were apparently getting their hands on cash addressed to the vacant house, keeping part for themselves and wiring the rest to Nigeria.

The suspects, by the way, who were charged with felony corrupt business influence and other charges, bonded out with the help of a bail bondsman.

In a way, busting scammers serves several purposes in Kosciusko County, Hill said. It alerts the general public to the scams and reminds people that scammers are operating in their community, and it also serves as a morale booster for the detectives, who have to put a lot of work into the investigations.

There’s a bit of a sad aspect to the scam cases, though. Whenever news gets out that another scammer has been busted in Kosciusko County, the department gets calls from people in other counties who have been victimized. They had gotten no help from their local police, but would the police in Kosciusko County be willing to look into their case?

Unfortunately, the department has to turn down those victims. The department has plenty of work to do within Kosciusko County, and they don’t have jurisdiction outside their county.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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