Sheriff's office helps stop multi-million dollar nationwide scheme

Posted at 6:45 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 20:40:44-04

A nationwide crime that was uncovered in Limestone County has finally come to a close.

In September 2017, a man in Limestone County was duped out of more than $20,000 after trying to buy a vintage car online.

The case was reported to the Limestone County Sheriff's Office after the car was never delivered.

Sgt. Jason Ash began looking into the case and quickly realized that it stretched far past county lines.

"Of course, naturally the vehicle not showing up is a very good sign that it's a scam," Ash said. "It was more intricate than most operations that we deal with, so I figured these guys didn't just do this once, they did it a lot more times. They're proficient enough that I knew there were more victims out there."

Ash then reached out to the U.S. Secret Service for help. Special Agent Michael Boyett with TDPS also stepped in and eventually the FBI.

With each of these agencies working together, they were able to find the people responsible.

Toward the end of last month, 25 defendants were charged in Manhattan federal court with wire fraud and money laundering.

"When I received the news, I was ecstatic," Ash said. "I was very excited for the victim, I was very excited for us. We work hard on these cases. It takes months to investigate them sometimes."

According to the indictment, the scammers carried out the scheme from November 2016 to July 2018. They posted fake advertisements for cars online, tricking victims nationwide into wiring more than $4.5 million.

Ash said the site the criminals used has since been shut down. He said he can see why people fell for it since it included plenty of photos, details and even titles that went along with the cars.

Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson said he's glad the scam stops here.

"This is a prime example of what police work should be when you work together," Wilson said. "Being able to share information from one agency to another, regardless of where you are and be successful."

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The sentencing of these defendants will be determined by a judge.

Ash said the victim in their area has not received any of his money back, but this development does bring them one step closer to making that happen.

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