On May 18, 2016 Patrolman David Levine #636 conducted a motor vehicle stop that would precipitate the discovery of an international “lottery” scam in which an unknowing elderly woman from Idaho was defrauded of approximately $50,000. The investigation by the Howell Police Department, with assistance from the FBI, led to the woman’s identification. $3,000 seized during the stop is being returned to the victim.
Ptl. Levine stopped a suspicious vehicle in the area of Route 9/Estelle Ln. for having tinted front windows. During the motor vehicle stop, Ptl. Levine found the operator to be deceptive with his answers, had improper credentials for the vehicle and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Ptl. Levine summoned the assistance of K9 Officer Nicholas Bondarew #610 and his partner Jago, who gave a positive indication as to the presence of controlled dangerous substance(s) in the vehicle. This led to a search of the vehicle and the discovery of $2,071 cash and a “MoneyGram” order in the amount of $1,000 made out, hand-written, to the operator of the vehicle and came from Costa Rica. The operator gave conflicting stories regarding the money order and cash but eventually admitted both were “winnings” from an online gambling website. The MoneyGram and cash was seized pending the investigation. The operator was released at the scene.
The subsequent thorough, months-long investigation by Ptl. Levine and Detective Anthony Romano #605 led to the discovery that the “MoneyGram”, which is one of a batch of ten, originated in a Wal-Mart store located in Hayden, Idaho for a total of $9,800. Det. Romano and Ptl. Levine were able to retrieve surveillance footage from the Idaho Wal-Mart depicting an elderly woman, later discovered to be a 71 year-old fraud victim from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho purchasing the MoneyGrams. Through Wal-Mart surveillance footage from Idaho, Det. Romano and Ptl. Levine identified the woman’s vehicle make and model. Det. Romano sought the assistance of FBI Special Agent Edward Jacobson from the FBI office in Coeur D’Alene Idaho. SA Jacobson was able to identify the vehicle and its operator/victim.
SA Jacobson interviewed the victim who stated that she was called by a person identifying himself as “Special Agent Frank Anderson of the Department of Homeland Security” who advised her that she won a drawing in England and had to pre-pay the taxes on her winnings before receiving it. The woman complied, purchasing approximately $50,000 in MoneyGrams