ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 63-year-old Santa Fe-area woman claims she was bilked out of nearly $100,000 in a Jamaica-based telephone scam in which she sent money – including a Bible filled with $10,000 – to strangers promising prizes.
According to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, the woman contacted deputies earlier this month and described a three-month-long scam that started when she received a phone call from someone “out of Jamaica” telling her that she had won $10 million, a Mercedes-Benz and an all-expense paid vacation.
The woman was also told that, in order for her to receive her prizes, she had to send the callers money, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.
Twenty-seven money transfers and $98,699 later, she still had not received the prizes she was promised.
“It’s shocking,” said Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia. “It’s just very shocking that she would trust … I really don’t have the words for it.”
Garcia said the amount the woman claims to have been swindled out of is the largest dollar amount he’s heard of in such a scam. “It could be her life savings,” the sheriff said.
The report states the woman, who lives south of Santa Fe, is disabled. The Journal was unable to reach her by telephone Thursday.
According to the report, the woman said that over the course of three months she spoke with three people about the prizes she had won, but none of them provided her with the name of the company they worked for or any other information. Still, the woman sent them money.
On May 6, she provided the callers the first of what would be many payments when she read them the number of a prepaid Visa card over the telephone, in a transaction that totaled $1,200. She then did the same thing five times over a period of a week.
Over the course of three months, the woman provided additional prepaid Visa card payments over the phone, as well as completing several wire transactions. The most she gave to the callers at one time was on May 17, when she sent a $15,000 cashier’s check through Federal Express. She ended up sending payments to six different people, all residing in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to the sheriff’s report.
As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, on June 6, the woman stuffed $10,000 into a Bible and mailed it through the U.S. Postal Service.
“Why in the world would she do that?” said Garcia.
The woman told authorities that the number that came up on her caller ID in the scam had a New Mexico area code, but she believes the callers “were using a Magic Jack” that would change the number identified.
Garcia said the woman’s claims were somewhat unbelievable, but added, “we have to believe it and investigate it.”
Lt. Adan Mendoza, of the Sheriff’s Office, said he also had concerns when he first learned the details of the case. He said an investigator is working to obtain transaction receipts from the woman in order to determine whether her story is legitimate.
Information in the case has also been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.
Garcia said it’s not unheard of for events like these to occur.
“Some people believe that they’ll be rewarded,” the sheriff said. “But they only get scammed.”