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For elderly woman, 'win' comes with $3,500 loss
A caller has terrific news but needs her to do a couple of things first.
By AUSTIN BOGUES, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - A 91-year-old Brooksville woman fell victim to an international telephone scam that turned increasingly absurd, and expensive, over a matter of days.
The woman, who was not identified by Hernando County sheriff's officials, ultimately lost $3,500.
Authorities are not optimistic that she will recover any of her money because the scam extended overseas, although international law enforcement agencies will be involved in the investigation.
The con, sheriff's officials said Monday, began recently when the woman received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Jack Johnson. The stranger had good news: The woman had won $425,000 in an American Sweepstakes Network in New York.
All she had to do to claim her prize was to send $1,500 as insurance on her winnings to someone named Flory Munoz of Costa Rica.
She did. Jack Johnson called again, on Aug. 8. The initial $1,500 was not enough to cover the insurance, he said. She needed to send an additional $2,000, this time to Alvaro Nunec of Costa Rica.
On Saturday, as she waited for her $425,000 sweepstakes winnings to arrive, she instead received a third call, the Sheriff's Office report states.
This time, the person identified himself as agent Clyde Smith of the FBI.
The "FBI agent" told the woman that she had been duped. The money she was sending to Costa Rica was not going to any sweepstakes insurance; it was being used to buy weapons for terrorists.
He told her that she could face up to 20 years in prison for helping terrorists.
But agent Smith had a solution: If she sent him $1,000, he would clear things up for her.
By now, the woman was suspicious enough to tell a neighbor what had been happening, and the neighbor contacted the Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office reported no leads on identifying either "Jack Johnson" or the fictitious FBI agent.
Scams like this one are not new, but Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Donna Black said the terrorist connection was a fresh twist.
"People need to understand that if you have to pay money to get money, you're going to lose money," Black said.