A simple “for sale” listing on Craigslist led Kosciusko County authorities to a large-scale scam.
Two Illinois women were arrested on local felony charges of corrupt business influence and control and felony attempted theft after they admitted to their involvement in a popular Nigerian scam. The scam, although in slighlty different variations, all involve the scammers sending overpayment for goods or services and requesting a portion of the funds to be returned. It is a problem that is costing innocent victims hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
Desiree Starlette Blackburn, 20, and Barbara Ickes, 39, both of Harvard, Ill., allegedly admitted their involvement in the scam when officers from the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department and Harvard Police Department showed up at their doorstep.
According to KCSD Sgt. Chad Hill, a local man brought a check to police that he found to be suspicious. The man was selling a piece of furniture on Craigslist and received the check, written for far over the selling price. His instructions were to cash the check and send the “seller” the overpayment.
Instead, KCSD detectives, with help from the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office, got involved and “ran decoy” for the victim by following instructions on where to send the payment. Officers tracked the UPS shipment to a vacant lot where the UPS driver knew to deliver to a nearby home.
“We didn’t have to get a search warrant or anything,” said Sgt. Hill. “She (Ickes) allowed our officers and the Illinois police inside and confessed everything.”
Inside Ickes home, police located an elaborate check-printing operation that included printing equipment and computers. Police said Ickes and Blackburn were creating fictitious checks bearing the names of many banking institutions. They also located a list of as many as 300 other potential victims throughout the country.
Ickes provided detectives information that implicated Blackburn and her involvement in the scam that the two allegedly began in October 2012 when they began forwarding money to a Nigerian location.
Computers seized at Ickes residence are currently being analyzed by the Indiana State Police Cyber Crimes Unit. KCSD detectives have also shared information uncovered from this arrest with United States Secret Service agents to determine if federal authorities can continue the investigation further.
Because Americans are becoming aware that wiring money overseas is a bad idea, Nigerians started recruiting U.S. residents as “mules” so that scam victims would feel safe sending money or packages to U.S. addresses. The scammers also continue to search for victims using online classified services
Blackburn and Ickes were preliminarily charged with felony corrupt business influence and control, along with felony attempted theft. Ickes was also additionally charged with felony forgery. Both women are being held in the Kosciusko County Jail on individual $20,000 bonds.