VISTA - A 24-year-old man has been
arrested by sheriff's detectives who said he was involved in a $600,000 Internet
fraud scheme with partners in Nigeria.
the sheriff's financial-crimes unit said Kevin Harper of Vista was paid to
create counterfeit checks, which he mailed to addresses provided by his
partners. Authorities said he also received Western Union cash transfers from
victims and sent the money to Nigeria.
Sheriff's investigators contacted Harper on Thursday as they were following
up on a complaint involving a victim in Oregon who was selling a horse over the
Internet, Sgt. Mark Varnau said.
The Nigerian suspects had contacted the animal's owner, used a fake name and
agreed to buy the horse. Harper sent the victim a check as payment for the horse
and asked the seller to send a portion of the payment to a horse shipper named
Kevin Harper via Western Union, Varnau said.
The check bounced and was returned to the victim because it was counterfeit.
"He was simply directed to be a middleman, a mail-forwarder for the
suspects," Varnau said.
Investigators said Harper admitted he sent out checks for more than six
months and estimated he sent his partners about $600,000.
Harper told investigators he made about $50,000 from the transactions, Varnau
Detectives have identified two victims in the case, including another horse
owner in Jamul, and will go through Harper's computer files to try to identify
others, Varnau said.
When detectives searched Harper's apartment, which he shared with his mother,
they seized his computer and recovered check-counterfeiting materials and
counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks, Varnau said.
Harper was being held on $60,000 bail at the Vista Detention Facility on
grand-theft, burglary and other charges.