A 73-year-old Kent woman recently received more than $5,500 in cash, yet police say the money was part of a scam that could have landed the woman in jail.
Most of the money is now in evidence at the Kent Police Department.
Officer Melanie Frazier told KIRO 7 Consumer Investigator Amy Clancy the Kent woman received the money in multiple installments, via the U.S. mail from a woman in Waterloo, Iowa.
Officer Frazier: "It was cash, in the mail. All cash."
Clancy: "And then she (the Kent woman) was supposed to wire the money to Jamaica?"
Frazier: "To specific individuals in Jamaica."
According to Frazier, both women are the intended victims of scam artists, and both women believed they were winners of a sweepstakes: The woman in Iowa was instructed by the scam artists to send cash to the woman in Kent, allegedly to cover the cost of taxes and fees on her winnings, before receiving her multi-million dollar pay-out.
The woman in Kent was told to deposit the cash in a newly opened account, then wire most of the money to Jamaica, also to cover taxes and fees for her so-called winnings.
Then a few days later, the Kent woman received a check for $9500. She was told to deposit the check into her account, then wire the full amount to Jamaica.
Officer Frazier believes the $5,500 in cash was meant to gain the Kent woman’s trust so she’d end up wiring much more to the criminals over the course of the scam.
The woman didn’t deposit the check, however. She went to police instead. But if she had, Officer Frazier believes the 73-year-old would have lost all of that money because the check is most likely a fraud.
What is not a fake, however, is the cash the woman in Iowa has been sending to the Kent woman; more than $5,500 so far.
Clancy: "She (the Kent woman) is being used by the scam artists to perpetuate a crime."
Officer Frazier: "Absolutely. I explained that to her. Although she’s a victim, technically, yes. She’s in the middle. She’s technically the middle-man in all of this."
What makes this scam unusual, according to Frazier, are the complexity, the multiple targets, and the cash sent through the mail. She should know: Frazier says she investigates at least three scams a week, and is tired of seeing mostly elderly people become victims.
Especially since she has no jurisdiction to go after the off-shore scammers: "We can’t get the suspect," she tells Clancy. "They’re out of the country. These investigations go nowhere."
Which is why the Kent Police Department agreed to discuss this case: to get the message out that if you’re ever instructed to send money to receive a prize, you’re not really a winner. You’re a victim.
The Iowa woman will eventually get back the cash that was not sent to Jamaica.
The Kent woman will most likely not be charged with a crime, but she is so embarrassed, Officer Frazier says she hasn't told even her family that she was involved in all of this.
For more information on how to avoid becoming a sweepstakes victim: