Police Commissioner scammed out of thousands of dollars by Internet crooks
Front Page
November 9, 2012
Police Commissioner scammed out of thousands of dollars by Internet crooks

Senior government officials, including Commissioner of Police Keith Miller, have been duped in an elaborate Internet hoax, which saw police officials sending over EC$9,000 of government funds to crooks in the West African nation of Senegal.{{more}}

Money was sent by Western Union Money Transfer to persons in the French-speaking nation, on three occasions, to satisfy registration requirements for the Commissioner and two other police officers to attend a conference on human trafficking, in Dakar, Senegal, in October.

The scammers communicated with this country’s top law enforcement officer in a series of emails, obtained by SEARCHLIGHT.

The emails, which were riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, purported to come from the “International Humanitarian Foundation” (IHF), the “Bureau of Immigrant Affairs State of Maryland”, “American Airlines”, and the “Association of California Insurance Companies”.

After a fourth request for money, Miller became suspicious and sought the help of the US Embassy in Barbados, who confirmed that he had been the victim of an “advance fee scheme.”

Advance fee schemes occur when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value — such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift — and then receives little or nothing in return, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website says.

The scammers first contacted the government on August 31, when one “Precious Brown”, claiming to be of the IHF, emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs inviting participation in the “Fourth International Global Conference Against Human Trafficking, Child Abuse & Racism”.

“These events are been (sic) organized by the International Humanitarian Foundation (IHF) in collaboration with a list of donor sponsors.

“These events will takes (sic) place from the 16th – 19th of October 2012 in (Baltimore, Maryland the United States at the Baltimore East Conference Center) and from 22nd – 25th of October 2012 in Dakar-Senegal, West Africa at the (International Youth Conference Hall),” Brown’s email said.

The email writer also promised participants free round trip airline tickets to both events.

“Our conference donor sponsor’s (sic) will take full responsibility of all registered participants Round trip Air tickets to both events and visa requirements for the United States, While delegates will only be responsible for their own hotel accommodation in Dakar, Senegal where the second phase of the event will take place.”

Brown provided the email address of “Mrs Elizabeth Walker”, who, the email said, should be contacted for registration.

In a subsequent email, Brown said delegates would be welcome to present papers on the conference topic, and to discuss what could be done to fight racism, human trafficking and child abuse.

She said there would be “some financial rewards to group participants that distinguished themselves in their areas of discipline during these events.”

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded Brown’s invitation to the Ministry of National Security and to the office of the Attorney General on September 10.

Two days later, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey informed the Commissioner of Police and asked him to nominate persons to attend the event.

The Commissioner nominated himself, as well as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ruth Jacobs and Sergeant Junior Simmons, both of the Anti-Trafficking Unit.

Miller, however, notified the organizers that he would only be able to attend the session from October 22 to 25 in Senegal.

“Elizabeth Walker” of the “Conference Secretariat” then emailed the Commissioner on October 1, but in that email, the dates of the conference in Senegal were given as November 20 to 23.

Walker asked Miller to send the names, passport numbers, dates of birth, places of birth, country of residence, telephone numbers and occupation of all participants. This he did.

Cabinet memos dated October 9 and 19, obtained by SEARCHLIGHT, say that Cabinet approved the attendance of the three police officers and two sets of funds — $5,134.94 and $1,126.58, for accommodation, subsistence and insurance, respectively.

On October 5, the commissioner was urged in an email by one “Dr Jefferson Taylor” to make the group’s hotel booking at the “Comfortable Hotel & Resorts” in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Taylor said the booking was necessary in order to receive a “Booking Confirmation Receipt,” which, he said, was to be returned to him along with forms (B) and (C), so that their “files for visa authorization through the United States Bureau of Immigration Affairs here in Anaheim, California” could be completed.

“Note that visa processing takes probably 14 days or more before visa appointment for your countries, so the soonest your documents can be submitted, the quickest we can proceed with your visa processing base (sic) on time factor and the numerous delegates we have to attend too (sic).”

Using an email address provided by Taylor, the booking at the “Comfortable Hotels and Resort” was made on October 5, after which, the “hotel” informed the Commissioner, also by email, that payment could be made by international bank transfer, or by Western Union Money Transfer.

The email, however, advised that the international bank transfer would take seven days, whereas using Western Union Money Transfer would mean the hotel would receive the money the same day, and the booking would be confirmed immediately.

Taking the advice of the email writer, on October 9, Sergeant Junior Simmons sent via Western Union, EC$1,488.80, to pay for the three hotel rooms for three nights, at a cost of US$60 per room per night.

The payee on the Western Union voucher is given as Solomon Wright of Dakar, Senegal.

The total paid to Western Union, including the sending charge of EC$115, was $1,583.80.

The next request for money came from someone claiming to be from the “Bureau of Immigrant Affairs State of Maryland”, USA. That email, dated October 13, advised the Commissioner that since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, all participants travelling to the United States for an international conference would require an “Insurance Bond”.

“Therefore I am advising you now to contact the Insurance Company below and enquirer (sic) about 2 weeks Insurance Bond.

“… Since you will need the Insurance Bond document before your flight itinerary will be sent to you. You will have to make it hasty as you would need the insurance bond document to show it at the port of entry before you will be allowed to enter the conference venue. The document will be given to you by the insurance company soonest you contact them,” the email said.

A person, claiming to be acting on behalf of the “Association of California Insurance Companies”, then advised by email, that the insurance would cost US$610 per person, US$500 of which would be “refunded back to you while in Senegal before the two weeks period if you don’t encounter any problem.”

Therefore on October 17, Sergeant Simmons made another visit to Western Union, where he paid a total of EC$5,191.92, made up of the EC$4,971.92 to be sent to “Irvan George” of Senegal, to pay for the insurance, plus Western Union’s sending fee of EC$220.

The next day, one “Acic Dakar” sent by email, three documents dated October 18, purporting to be insurance bonds.

One “Thomas Anderson” contacted Miller on October 22, claiming to represent American Airlines.

The writer informed Miller that before the group’s airline tickets could be sent, “American Airlines” would need to see their “Senegal Immigration Statement of Visa upon Arrival documents.”

He therefore advised the Commissioner to contact the “Senegal Visa Sector”, and gave him the email address to use.

The visas would cost US$115 each, Miller was advised, when he contacted the “Senegal Visa Sector”. He was also told that he would be required to pay an additional refundable deposit of US$250 for each person, to get the “Statement of Visa Upon Arrival document”.

The next day, October 23, Simmons sent by Western Union, EC$2,978.40, to “Osaretin Idemudia” of Senegal to pay for the visas.

A sending charge of EC$150 was also paid to Western Union. The “visas” were duly sent by email, and were forwarded by the Commissioner to “Thomas Anderson” of “American Airlines”.

However, the scammers still were not satisfied.

On October 24, someone purporting to be from the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, California, USA, informed the Commissioner, in an email, that a “Guarantee Assurance Refundable Deposit” of US$1,000 was required for each participant in the event.

It was then that the Commissioner’s suspicions were aroused. He wrote the United States Embassy in Barbados on October 25, seeking their help in the verification of the authenticity of the documents he had been sent.

“These ad hock (sic) request have made me suspicious as to authenticity of the conference and request for money,” Miller said.

The Embassy quickly responded, advising Miller that he had been the victim of an “Advance Fee Scam”.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation then advised the Commissioner to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. That complaint was filed on October 29, SEARCHLIGHT has learnt.