Nigerian money scam perpetrator gets three year prison sentence

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
Friday, June 18, 2010
— A fingerprint on a FedEx envelope helped detective Robert Craig crack the case.

It was found at the bottom of the mailing label, inside a plastic cover on the front of the envelope.

It matched Jerry Perkins, a Dayton, Ohio, man also known as Faarih A. Lateef, charged in Walworth County with identity theft. He was sentenced Thursday to the maximum penalty—three years in prison and three years probation.

Although Walworth County could bring only one count of the identity theft victim against Perkins, evidence seized in his Ohio apartment suggested a bigger criminal operation.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo brought into the courtroom Thursday two carts loaded with evidence linking Perkins to a Nigerian money scam.

Evidence included bogus checks from several companies for sums of several thousands of dollars. Investigators found hundreds of money orders and cashier’s checks, most valued between $900 and $10,000.

There were e-mails in and out of Perkins’ account with information about bank accounts and addresses to send and receive money. There were some freshly printed checks, which Donohoo said he probably didn’t have a chance to mail.

Police also found several receipts showing Perkins had consistently sent thousands of dollars to Nigeria. And there was a copy of Nigerian documents and several packages wrapped in Nigerian newspapers.

The scheme is simple. The scammer shows interest in buying an item or paying for a service. He then sends a check for a value much higher than the cost of the service, and asks the seller to send back the difference—keeping some of the money for his or her trouble.

A few days later, the original check, which can sometimes be for thousands of dollars, bounces at the bank, and the victim is out of whatever amount they sent from their own bank account.

The scammers use untraceable e-mail accounts and phone lines and receive money via Western Union or MoneyGram, which also are untraceable. Authorities say catching the criminals is virtually impossible.

Prosecutors say Perkins’ target was a LaFayette Township resident who wanted to sell a trumpet for $160 on Craigslist, a free online classified service. The seller received an e-mail that authorities say came from Perkins. The man said he would buy the horn but would mail a check for $1,995. He told the LaFayette Township man he could keep $10, but asked him to send the rest to a Western Union account in Colorado.

The man instead turned the check over to authorities.

Craig, a Walworth County Sheriff’s Office detective, found the fingerprint and ran it through the State Crime Lab. It matched to Perkins in Ohio.

In court Thursday, Donohoo asked for the maximum penalty.

“There is no doubt in the state’s mind that if this defendant is released on probation that would duly depreciate the magnitude of the crime,” she said.

Judge James Carlson said he could sentence Perkins only for identify theft, a crime that carried a maximum 6-year penalty—three years incarceration, three years probation. But the judge agreed with Donohoo’s recommendation.

“It would depreciate the serious nature of this offense to give him time in the county jail and send him back to Ohio,” he said.

As part of his sentence, Perkins is to not have contact with the victim named in this offense, possess any negotiable instruments or have Internet access.

Last updated: 2:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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