Stan Stableski recently learned a valuable, but expensive lesson:
"You don't send money to get money," said the Washington Township, Lucas County, man, who lost more than $49,000 he wired from his bank account over the last two years in response to a Nigerian e-mail scheme.
In addition, Mr. Stableski, 48, told police he unwittingly deposited into his account a $48,000 check that later turned out to be fraudulent, and when it cleared wired that money away as well. He discovered he was the victim of a scheme after the bank notified him that it was freezing his account and holding him responsible for the check.
"I'm hoping something good comes out it," he said yesterday to The Blade.
Mr. Stableski told township police Friday that the first e-mail he received from one of three suspects involved in the scam stated he was entitled to an inheritance totaling one third of $42.3 million, or about $12.5 million after fees were deducted.
He was advised that before the inheritance could be released, he had to send $430,000 to pay past debts of the deceased before the inheritance could be released. He was made to believe other investors were willing to put up a large part of the $430,000, but he would be required to pay a portion, according to a police report.
The suspects asked for funds multiple times during the last two years. Mr. Stableski wired $49,123 to them in approximately 36 transfers to Nigeria via Western Union, police said.
The victim was contacted by one of the suspects, supposedly from Washington, in late August and was advised that another $48,000 was needed.
Mr. Stableski said he told the suspect didn't have any more money to send. The suspect then said another investor would send him a check, which he would have to cash and wire to the suspect, according to the report.
Mr. Stableski received a $48,000 check issued against a Florida auto auction account. He deposited the check into his bank account, and once it cleared he wired the funds, police reported.
During the Labor Day weekend, Mr. Stableski went to withdraw money from his bank account and learned it was frozen.
He was told the Florida check he had deposited and disbursed had been reported as fraudulent, and that he was being held liable for the funds, police said.
The suspect from Washington contacted him shortly after Mr. Stableski learned that the check was fraudulent.
Mr. Stableski told the suspect that his bank account had been frozen, and the suspect hung up. No one has contacted the victim since.
"I believed them," he said. "There were times I gave up hope. Things didn't happen the way it was supposed to."
And most of the time, they won't, authorities said.
"You have to be very careful on who you trust your money to, how you invest your money, and how you spend it," said Jim DeLong, special agent in charge of the Toledo FBI office.
He said the Nigerian scheme and others like it come up often. Even though many people don't fall for them - deleting e-mails or throwing out mail - some do.
People often go to the authorities after it's too late, and even then don't report or underreport their loss because they are embarrassed.
"Think back to relatives in that country or relatives who have money or relatives who died recently," Mr. DeLong said.
"If you don't have any of these things, don't respond to them," he added.
Mr. DeLong said the FBI will generate a report on the recent incident and send it to headquarters and to its legate office in Nigeria, which was established as a response to Americans who have lost money to such schemes.
Township police also alerted the Secret Service.
Township police Chief Chris Kaiser said this is the largest sum of money he's seen someone lose in such a scheme.
"It boils down to common sense," Chief Kaiser said of such solicitations. "When in doubt, don't."
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