Detectives, with the Help of Victims, Nab Internet Scammer
Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Task Force (ITF) Detectives worked together with victims to investigate an internet car scammer who defrauded victims hoping to buy classic cars on social media and other internet platforms.
On October 4, 2018, ITF Detective Dean Meyer, Detective Mark Smoldt and U.S. Postal Service Agent Shannon Saylor, with the assistance of the Newport Police Department, conducted a ruse of their own to lure 40-year-old Samuel E. Richardson out of the shadows and arrested him for Theft 2nd Degree.
ITF Detectives learned Richardson was conducting an elaborate scam where he posed as a classic car buyer and contacted a legitimate seller. He obtained all the information regarding the car and even took pictures of the vehicle. Later, he fraudulently posted his own ads, posing as the seller of the vehicle he didn’t own.
In late August of this year, Detectives contacted a victim living in Spokane who stated he was contacted by a man named “Eric” regarding a classic 1965 Ford Mustang he was attempting to sell for $10,000 on Craigslist. “Eric” took several photos of the vehicle, told the seller he wanted to purchase it and made arrangements to return in a few weeks to complete the sale and pick up the vehicle. The victim said “Eric” did not return. The victim began receiving calls from other subjects stating they were interested in purchasing the Mustang and one mentioned seeing it advertised on eBay. Knowing he never placed an ad on eBay, the victim checked the site and found a fraudulent ad for his vehicle with pictures of his car, sitting in his shop. The victim said “Eric” was the only person who took pictures of the vehicle. Detectives through the investigation identified Richardson as the male who identified himself to the victim as “Eric”.
They also contacted a victim living in the Netherlands who said he purchased the noted 1965 Mustang from a seller on eBay for $3000. The victim provided the seller’s eBay information and the bank account where he wired the $3000.
Detectives used this information to backtrack the transaction and contacted the bank’s fraud department, as well as, additional individuals who also fell for Richardson’s lies.
Detectives learned Richardson duped one victim into allowing Richardson to receive wire transfers for money through the victim’s bank account which were traced back to the victim from the Netherlands. Detectives also found Richardson had several warrants for his arrest issued in other states, including one from Montana which allowed for Richardson’s extradition and arrest.
Using the information learned during the investigation, along with the assistance of the victims Richardson deceived, Detective Meyer developed probable cause to arrest Richardson for Theft 2nd Degree.
On October 4, 2018, one of the victims set up a meeting with Richardson at the victim’s bank in Newport, WA. With the assistance of the Newport Police Department, Investigators arrested Richardson when he arrived for the meeting.
Richardson declined to answer questions or provide a statement. He was transported and booked into the Spokane County Jail for Theft 2nd Degree and as a Fugitive from Justice stemming from the Montana felony warrant. Multiple additional charges (Theft and Money Laundering) have since been added in connection to additional Spokane Police Department, Cheney Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office cases.
This investigation is still active and Investigators anticipate additional victims of Richardson’s scams will be identified and additional search warrants will be requested, potentially leading to additional charges being filed. This successful arrest, leading to multiple charges involving additional investigations, is due to the collaborative effort of victims and Investigators as they work together to unravel this elaborate and fraudulent internet scam.