Victims collectively lose $5,500 in two elaborate scams: Middleburg Heights Police Blotter

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MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio

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Fraud: Byron Boulevard

A resident went to the police station at 12:15 p.m. March 3 about a Facebook scam that got the best of her. She said a woman named Gabrielle contacted her on Facebook Messenger and explained rules to a contest and possible prizes. She decided to enter the $100 contest to win a possible $1,500 prize. She sent money via PayPal to an email address and expected to get her payment. Gabrielle contacted her again and said there was now a payment to raise the prize to $2,400 if she sent $400. The victim told the woman she only had $200 left on her account. After some conversation the victim was convinced to send $400 through another online pay system to a man. She would then need to pay an “agent fee” of $200 to another email to process her payment. She again sent a payment and waited to receive her prize money into her PayPal account. Gabrielle again contacted the victim and said the $2,400 prize was no longer available but a $5,700 was if she sent another $500. She sent $500 to a different email and expected her winnings to go into her PayPal account. However, she was told her account would not accept the payment. She was asked for her bank account and routing numbers so the payment would be sent there. The victim not only did that but provided her password and username as well as security questions and pin number. The victim then noticed a $900 unauthorized transaction that her bank denied. She contacted the suspect who said she could no longer use the other payment system. Gabrielle asked her to obtain $500 worth of eBay gift cards as a final step to get her payment. She went to CVS, bought the cards and sent pictures of them to the suspect via Messenger. She also sent a photograph of her debit card. Gabrielle then tried to gain access to her bank account, at which time the victim sent her the code that her bank provided to her phone to verify she was trying to access her account. Gabrielle told the victim she needed to send $3,000 via bitcoin. She went to a bitcoin machine, created an account and deposited $20. She did not complete any further money transfers. She then decided the entire incident was suspicious and went to police to file a report. She told the officer she went to the bank to get her account information changed. The officer gave her information from the Ohio Attorney General’s website for identify theft. He also said she needed to follow up with the credit services. Overall, the victim sent six transactions totaling $1,700. The officer asked her to send images of all the transactions with Gabrielle. She said she used PayPal friends and family for all the transactions.

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Fraud: Normandie Boulevard

Police went to an Islander apartment at 9:11 p.m. March 1 and spoke with a resident who lost money in a scam. The victim received a phone call claiming to be with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The suspect asked him if he was expecting a package from Mexico. The suspect told him there was a package from Mexico that contained drugs. It was sent to his old address in Boston where he lived three years ago. The suspect told him several bank accounts were created in his name in the U.S. and other countries. The victim was given two option to prove his innocence. He could hire an attorney and appeal the allegations or receive help from the U.S. Marshals. The suspect told him the U.S. Marshals would work with him to help separate the bank accounts that were legitimately his and link a new Social Security number to all his accounts. The victim gave the suspect the name of the banks with whom he has accounts. He did not provide any of the account or credit card numbers to him, but he did provide the value of each account. The suspect told him the incident would be linked to the Middleburg Heights police department. The victim then received a call from the suspect who said it was a conference call with the local police. The victim later told police he did not remember the police officer’s name who was supposedly on the call. Once the police “left” the call, the victim told the suspect he wanted to work with the U.S. Marshals. The victim then received a call from a woman who said she had his bank account information and told him to transfer his money to a federal/government account. Once that would occur, the money would then return to his account after he receives a new Social Security number. He was also told the money in his accounts, however, could not be transferred directly to the federal/government account so he needed to digitally do so using gift cards or bitcoin. The victim said he preferred gift cards. The suspect told him not to disclose this situation to anyone since he was under surveillance and his phone and emails were tapped. He was then told to contact his bank and inform it he was buying gift cards in case there was a withdrawal limit. He did and asked his bank not to place a withdrawal limit on his account. The suspect was on the line while the victim provided his checking account number to customer service. The victim went to several ATMs and banks to withdraw $3,800. He then purchased Target gift cards at various stores in the area. He said a Strongsville Target employee asked him why he was buying so many cards and warned him he may be involved in a potential scam. The victim apparently disregarded that warning and gave the numbers to the woman who supposedly was with the U.S. Marshals. She then insisted he call her personal phone after he got home. It is then when he realized he was involved with a potential scam and reported it to police. The officer told him to contact his banks to report the fraud and block all the phone numbers that contacted him during this situation. The officer checked with dispatch to see if the victim actually spoke with police in connection with the U.S. Marshal. He was told the only time the victim made contact with the local police was when he called about the scam.

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Theft: Pearl Road

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Police went to Flowerama at 9 a.m. Feb. 28 about a theft of windmills. The store employee told them she came into work at 7:30 that morning and noticed damage to the wooden windmills. She then reviewed video surveillance. It showed at 4:30 a.m. a suspect walked to the south side of the building and pretended to urinate.He then grabbed two wooden windmills that were locked to a cable. He pulled them from the cable and walked southwest bound. He damaged the windmills, each valued at $90, during the theft. The suspect is in his 20s and slim. He wore a two-tone winter jacket dark-colored hoodie with hood, dark-colored black pants with markers on the side and dark-colored shoes.



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