THORNTON — San Joaquin County sheriffs officials are warning residents about an elaborate scam with suspects posing as an FBI agent and the sheriff himself to steal $2,800 from victims who thought they were recovering a stolen prize.
The scam was carried out in a series of phone calls made to the victims over four days. Sheriffs officials said the victims reported the scam Friday morning, the first time they called the Sheriffs Department in those four days.
The victims live in a home in the 23000 block of North Lamb Road in Thornton, a small town about 20 miles north of Stockton. This is what they told sheriffs investigators about how they were scammed:
On Tuesday, the scammers called the victims. Someone pretending to be an employee from Publishers Clearing House told the victims they had won a $600,000 prize in a contest that occurred four years before.
The phony clearinghouse employee said the prize check was stolen in the mail and cashed in Mexico, where the suspect had been prosecuted. The victims also were told an FBI agent would call them, so they could receive their prize money.
That afternoon, the fake FBI agent called the victims from a blocked phone number, telling them who took their prize check. The scammer also told the victims that the theft suspect had negotiated to have the stolen money sent by mail from Mexico.
The phony FBI agent also told them a San Joaquin County sheriffs official would call them to verify the agents identity, so the victims wouldnt have to worry about this being a scam.
On Wednesday, the victims received a call from someone posing as San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore. The phony sheriff told them the FBI agent informed him of the situation, that this was not a scam and they would be receiving their prize money shortly.
On Wednesday afternoon, the fake FBI agent called the victims again, telling them that they would have to pay a duty tax since the money was coming from Mexico. The phony agent told the victims to send two payments of $1,400 to Mexico City payable to the suspect.
The victims later told sheriffs investigators that they drove to the bank and withdrew $2,800 from their account. They sent $1,400 to Mexico City via Western Union on Wednesday and a second $1,400 payment on Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, the victims also received a call from someone pretending to be a U.S. Customs agent, telling them that he had a package from Mexico City. The fake customs agent said he wanted to make sure they were going to be receiving this package, as long as it did not contain any narcotics.
On Thursday, the fake FBI agent called the victims, telling them he would be sending them documents to fill out for tax purposes to claim their prize money. The victims found the forms online to be real documents that deal with money for tax purposes.
The victims were expecting another phone call on Friday from the fake FBI agent, who was supposed to provide a tracking number to receive their prize money. But the phone call never came. Thats when the victims called the San Joaquin County Sheriffs Department.
While scams are very common, sheriffs officials say, this particular one was very elaborate. They asked residents to be wary of this scheme and to report any similar calls immediately to the nearest law enforcement agency.