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The Daily



06-10-03: Area businesses being scammed

The Daily Standard

    The Mercer County Sheriff's Office is investigating a scam apparently directed at family-owned businesses. Two incidents have been reported in the county thus far, although investigators believe additional contacts have been or could be made.
    The first incident occurred three weeks ago when a man claiming to be from London, England, contacted an unidentified business owner in the Celina area.
    The caller wished to purchase 30 units of technology-related equipment at $500 each. When the businessman questioned export laws, the caller suggested sending the shipment to a branch office in Houston, Texas, and supplied a credit card.
    The local businessman sent the equipment to Texas and later learned the credit card number was no good. The local person then contacted postal authorities in Houston in regard to holding the shipment, but learned it had been picked up the previous day.
    The second incident took place Saturday afternoon when a caller claiming to be from the African country of Toga contacted Tom Krick of Bob's AudioVideo and Appliances, 910 S. Sugar St. The man wished to purchase 10 DVD players along with some televisions.
    Krick also questioned export rules and was told the shipment could be sent to a business associate in Toledo. The caller provided a credit card number, but Krick stopped the transaction at that point and alerted authorities.
    Detectives Pat Elking and Kip Wright are handling the ensuing investigation. Elking spoke with Houston law enforcement officers who expressed an interest in following up on their end. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the matter, according to Wright.
    Authorities in Bryan contacted the sheriff's office Monday afternoon wanting to compare notes regarding an incident that happened there in recent days.
    "We have not determined whether these are random cases or part of something bigger," Wright told The Daily Standard. "We definitely will be checking with other jurisdictions."
    The callers thus far have made contact toward the end of the business day and requested to speak with the owner/manager. They seem interested in technology-related equipment like DVD players and computer components.
    Wright suggests business owners be suspicious regarding large orders from people they have not done business with previously or callers claiming to be from foreign countries.
    Pam Buschur, executive director of the Celina-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, plans to fax warnings to the 600-plus members warning them about the scam.
    "Some crimes happen and you look for clues," Wright said. "This is the time to put some good crime prevention into action."
    Any business owners who received similar calls should contact the detectives at the sheriff's office, 419-586-7724


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822