Caregiver charged in alleged theft of $631,000 from Palos Hills woman

A 24-hour caregiver has been accused of being part of a scheme that bilked an elderly Palos Hills woman out of $631,000.

Two other women who also were allegedly involved are being sought but may have fled the country, Palos Hills police Chief Paul Madigan said Thursday.

Marion Issert, 65, of Joliet, was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of felony senior financial exploitation, Madigan said.

Authorities believe the other two women fled to the Philippines. Madigan said police believe one was a friend of the victim’s who may have helped Issert get a job as her caregiver.

The suspects allegedly took the money from the woman’s bank account between June and October, police said, taking the woman to banks to transfer funds out of her account.

Police said the suspects initially asked the woman to donate the money to a church group in the Philippines, but she refused.

“Apparently they took it upon themselves to get the money transferred into their own accounts, and they were trying to send the money overseas,” Madigan said.

Palos Hills police were notified about a possible theft a few weeks ago by the PLOWS Council on Aging, he said.

“PLOWS was contacted by a bank who thought there was some suspicious activity on the accounts, which is an understatement,” Madigan said.

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4 Arrested After Passing Off Thousands In Fake $100 Bills At Mills Mall

FRAZER TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – Four people are facing numerous charges after police say they tried to pass off thousands in fake $100 bills at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall.

Police say three men and one female, a juvenile, from the Bronx, New York, passed off the counterfeit money at about 20 stores.

They allegedly would buy $5 or $6 worth of merchandise at a store to make change out of the fake bills. Police say they had thousands in fake $100 bills.

“They were making small purchases, small items and they would pay with big bills and receive real money for the correct change, so they were washing the money,” said Frazer Police Sgt. Brian Pazak.

Among the stores hit were Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle, Foot Action, H&M and Starbucks.

Mall security reported the bogus bills at one of the stores and an officer spotted the foursome leaving the mall and pulled them over.

They were later arrested during a traffic stop.

The suspects have been identified as 27-year-old Raul Agero, 26-year-old Steven Orr, 18-year-old Juan Quinones and a 17-year-old female.

All four face 22 counts of forgery each, plus additional counts of theft and corruption of a minor.

The three men were taken the Allegheny County Jail and the juvenile female was taken to the Shuman Center.

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Woman faked husband’s death to collect $2M

A couple of years after Igor Vorotinov’s wife told his insurer that he died in Moldova, the FBI grew suspicious.

The purported death of Igor in October 2011 netted his widow, Irina Vorotinov, reportedly of Minneapolis, Maple Grove and Plymouth, more than $2 million from a life insurance claim.

That claim — which included a badly putrefied body, found lying on the side of a rural Moldovan village road — was false, prosecutors now say.

Irina Vorotinov, 50, and her son, Alkon Vorotinov, 25, were charged Tuesday in federal court in St. Paul — the purported widow with mail fraud, and her son with having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony and concealing a crime.

According to a criminal complaint, Mutual of Omaha, the insurance company that paid Vorotinov’s claim, hired a private firm to investigate the 2011 death.

That firm interviewed the Moldovan police officer who found the supposed body of Igor Vorotinov.

The officer received an anonymous 902 call (the equivalent of 911 in the United States), saying a dead body was at the entrance of Cojusna village in Moldova, an eastern European country between Romania and Ukraine.

The officer said he found the body on the side of the road between two bushes and determined there were no signs of violence; he then called his son to help him take it to a morgue in Straseni.

A passport and hotel cards belonging to Igor Vorotinov were found with the body.

Neither the police officer nor the morgue took pictures of the body, because neither authority “had access to a camera,” the complaint stated.
Irina Vorotinov traveled to Moldova from the Twin Cities, identified the body as her husband and ordered it cremated. She then took the ashes back home to Minnesota.

In March 2012, she received a check from Mutual of Omaha for $2,048,414.09 in life insurance proceeds.

More than a year later, in June 2013, the FBI received a tip from an anonymous source in Moldova that Igor Vorotinov was not in his widow’s urn.

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How Social Media Networks Facilitate Identity Theft and Fraud

Recent research reveals that identity theft affects millions of people a year, costing victims countless hours and money in identity recovery and repair. What causes this pattern of online theft and fraud? It’s a combination of factors: a lack of consumer knowledge regarding protecting your identity online; growing comfort with, and trust in, social platform providers; the need for social platforms to generate revenue; and a lack of standards or policing of these standards. Although this issue is not yet in the mainstream consciousness, it likely will be sooner rather than later.

Fueling the Fire
Social media sites generate revenue with targeted advertising, based on personal information. As such, they encourage registered users to provide as much information as possible. With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud. Additionally, these platforms have a ton of confidential user information, and are likely vulnerable to outside (or inside) attack. On the marketing front, Google recently patented an algorithm to rate individual’s influence within social media. Once publicized, it will likely encourage greater participation by active users in order to boost their influence score.

Crimes of Opportunity
With the increased global use of social media, there are more opportunities than ever before to steal identities or perpetrate fraud online. For example, status updates posted on Twitter, Facebook and many other social media sites can be used by criminals. If you post that you’re out of town on vacation, you’ve opened yourself up for burglary. If you mention that you’re away on business for a weekend, you may leave your family open to assault or robbery. When it comes to stalking or stealing an identity, use of photo- and video-sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube provide deeper insights into you, your family and friends, your house, favorite hobbies and interests.

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Credit card thieves take gas in ‘pump and dump’ scheme

Lilburn, Georgia (CNN)-The man in the white shirt was pumping gas into an ordinary-looking white van. But he was no ordinary customer.

For one, it took him a long time at the pump. And then there were the stolen credit cards police say he took out of his wallet. In the 17 minutes he was at the pump, he used two cards to pump 95 gallons of diesel fuel.

What happened at this gas station outside Atlanta is part of a crime wave around the country, police say. It’s called “pump and dump.” Thieves use stolen credit cards to get gas and then sell it at cut-rate prices to truckers and gas stations that are part of the scheme.

Authorities say it’s a multi-million dollar crime with a quick payoff.

The criminals look as if they are pumping gas like any other customer. But their vehicles are vans, trucks and SUVs fitted with hidden tanks that can hold several hundred gallons. The hidden tanks range from sophisticated contraptions to a simple plastic or metal container inside the vehicle.

“It’s a very lucrative way to make money. It runs below the radar,” said U.S. Secret Service Agent Steve Scarince, who supervises the agency’s Los Angeles Fraud Task Force, and tracks the crime around the country.

Scarince said the gas theft rings in the Los Angeles area typically resell the stolen gas to gas stations for a fraction of the usual cost. The stations then sell it on — at full price — to the public. In other parts of the country, police have arrested thieves who resell the stolen gas to independent truckers or who use it themselves.

The crime typically starts with the thieves stealing credit card information or buying stolen numbers online. They then use those cards to buy gas.

But catching and prosecuting them can be a lengthy process.

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Michigan man targets the elderly in $46.5M Ponzi scheme

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A western Michigan man convicted of operating a $46.5 million Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly investors was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Wednesday.

David McQueen, 44, was convicted earlier this year of fraud and other charges related to the scheme. Prosecutors say he promised to make steady payments to hundreds of investors, but really just moved money between accounts to keep checks from bouncing.

The courtroom was packed with victims for his sentencing hearing, The Grand Rapids Press reported. U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist said many victims are in financial ruin, including a woman who invested $500,000 with him who was then unable to pay for her sick husband’s medical care and funeral.

“Mr. McQueen does not take any responsibility for what has occurred here,” Quist said. “He can say he’s sorry in an abstract sense but I don’t think he feels it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sally Berens said McQueen portrayed himself as a Christian doing good works while taking a $150,000 monthly salary. McQueen still owes $32 million in restitution, prosecutors say.

McQueen, who lived in Kent County’s Byron Township, has blamed lawyers and others for his failed investments.

His business partner, Trent Francke, pleaded guilty to securities and tax charges. Quist sentenced him Tuesday to seven years in prison.

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Phone Scams: Why People Keep Falling for the Oldest Scam in the Book

It was 11 o’clock in the morning when Luann and Betty Ann’s world was shattered with a single phone call.

“He says, ‘Do you have a daughter or a son?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a daughter,’” Luann said. “And he said, ‘Oh boy, there’s been a terrible accident. Four cars at an intersection. Everyone is unconscious.’”

“He said, ‘What kind of car does she have?’ And I said, ‘It’s a Kia,’” she continued. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a Kia here. She’s unconscious.’”

The two women, who asked that their full names not be used, didn’t know who the man on the phone was but, terrified for their daughter’s life, they jumped into their own car and headed out to look for her, staying on the phone with the stranger.

“I am thinking my daughter is laying on a highway somewhere unconscious,” Betty Ann said. “And the scariest part was we didn’t even know where she was. They wouldn’t say exactly where she was.”

But then, the story took an unexpected, and even more frightening, turn.

“I was like, ‘You have to tell me exactly where you are and what the hell is going on now,’” Luann said. “And then his whole demeanor changed and he was like, ‘Now you wait a minute. … We have her, at gunpoint, and we are going to shoot her if you don’t give me $1,700.’”

But what Luann and Betty Ann didn’t know at the time was that they were on the receiving end of a phone scam, where the latest tactic in an otherwise low-tech crime is for con artists to claim to have kidnapped a loved one and are holding them for ransom.

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Sisters Indicted In Non-Profit Fraud

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two sisters have been charged in separate indictments for allegedly embezzling from non-profit organizations.

The indictment states that 48-year-old Sharon Harrison of Rosedale embezzled more than $1.3 million from nonprofit organizations from which she worked and received federal funding. According to the four-count indictment, Sharon Harrison was a bookkeeper for several federally-funded nonprofit groups.

Kimberly Harrison, 46, also from Rosedale, was charged in a separate indictment for allegedly embezzling funds from a federally-funded nonprofit organization she founded called Between Friends. Between Friends helped disadvantaged kids find foster homes and provided services to foster kids and families. Kimberly Harrison was also charged with bankruptcy fraud.

“Non-profit organizations that receive federal funds have a legal duty to use them for the intended purpose,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Sharon Harrison and Kimberly Harrison allegedly helped themselves to federal funds intended to provide services for disadvantaged children and homeless families in Baltimore.”

The Harrison sisters each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each county of theft. Kimberly Harrison faces an additional maximum penalty of five years for bankruptcy fraud.

Both of the sisters do not have a court date scheduled as of now.

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US Faces Epidemic of Phony Debt Collectors: Prosecutor

The United States is facing an epidemic of unscrupulous debt collectors who pose as law enforcement, threatening their victims with jail time unless they pay bills for things they never bought, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for a Georgia-based company.

A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday against employees at Williams Scott & Associates LLC, based in Norcross, Georgia. The alleged thieves posed as debt collectors and local law enforcement, conning 6,000 people of out more than $4 million in recent years, authorities said.

Victims were tricked into believing they’d committed a crime such as fraud — then bullied into paying up bogus debts or going to jail, authorities said. According to the criminal complaint, the employees used aliases such as “Investigator Ace Rogers.”

“I don’t care if you’re nine months pregnant, I have a job to do here,” a phony collector said on one of the calls, which was recorded.

In another recorded call, a person was threatened with legal backlash.

“I will have no choice but to forward it to Los Angeles County, However, Los Angeles County will issue you a warrant for your arrest,” a recorded caller said.

Experts warned that more fraudsters are on the loose — and that federal authorities are cracking down.

“There are lots of companies that do this and victimized not just 6,000 people, but I think tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people all over the country,” Bharara said.

Actual debt collectors won’t aggressively harass consumers, said Christopher Koegel, the assistant director of the Division of Financial Practices for the Federal Trade Commission.

“A legitimate debt collector will not lie or deceive the consumer, try to abuse the consumer, or call at inappropriate times, or use other high-pressure tactics,” Koegel said.

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Secrets of an Identity Thief

Driving around Seattle with “Alice,” a convicted ID thief who didn’t want her own identity revealed, was an education.

“She knew where all the places where to go … the easiest cars to break into,” Shadel said.

Driving around a parking lot, Alice pointed out the cars she would likely target.

“Out-of-state plate, so we are probably going to hit that car because it’s parked over in the corner,” she said. “It’s easy to get into without somebody seeing.”

The out-of-state license plate signaled to Alice that the driver had probably traveled with lots of personal information.

She also pointed out seemingly unlikely targets, like work vans. “They usually had like full on credit cards to bill companies,” she said.

And cars with backpacks that are sitting out in the open. “It’s just full of goodies. It always is.”

In just a few months Alice and her colleagues stole $900,000, Shadel said, noting that “she had a little group.”

“One guy who could make IDs. Another who knew how to swipe all the laptops and put them up in the cloud. It was quite a little posse of identity thieves,” Shadel said.

Identity theft affects more than 16 million Americans each year to the tune of $24.7 billion, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is the single largest type of property crime.

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