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Local Couple Working For Nigerian Check Scammers?

May 8, 2009

DIAMOND SPRINGS (CBS13) ? Federal officials have broken what they say is part of a Nigerian Check scam. A Federal complaint obtained by CBS13 says that a Diamond Springs couple was helping to spread what Postal inspectors called "high quality" counterfeit postal and money orders.

The court documents say Susan Bickar and Tim Carlson were receiving packages from Benin, West Africa filled with money orders valued at $925.15 apiece. Customs officials had intercepted a package filled with 97 suspected counterfeit money orders in Los Angeles. All of them had an Albertson's logo on them with a total value of nearly $400,000. The fake money orders looked original and bore the U.S. Postal Service's logo on them and had the 11-digit serial number and required numeric codes; however, the watermarks and other security features were wrong. A second shipment out of Memphis contained even more counterfeits.

Postal Inspectors say that Bickar and Carlson would take the fake money orders and mail them via FedEx and UPS to people across the United States. Bickar claimed in a confession that she was doing this as a work-from-home job that she had found on the Internet She would send the checks and would get paid every week, depending on the number of checks she sent out. She allegedly received 3-4 parcels a week that contained these fake money grams from Lucky's and Albertson's. Her bosses claimed to be from the United Kingdom, but she suspected they were in Nigeria. She suspected that the checks were counterfeit, and even tried to cash one at a Wells Fargo. The bank told her the check was counterfeit.

Bickar's husband, Tim Carlson, says he was told to separate the packages and send them from several UPS boxes throughout the community so it wouldn't raise suspicion with anyone. Carlson says that was a "red flag" for him and he was suspicious, but since he was unemployed and Bickar was on disability, they needed additional income.

When Federal officials searched Bickar and Carlson's home, they found 340 fake checks totaling over $6 million dollars.

Inside each package was a set of instructions for the home-based check ring saying:

"Hello, Rep,

I was instructed to make out this payment to you by the company you represent and was also told to leave the money order blank in other [sic] for there not to be mistakes. ONCE RECEIVE OF THIS MONEY GRAM MONEY ORDER YOUR FULL NAME AT (PAY TO THE ORDER OF) THEN SIGN AT ADDRESS DOWN AT (ADDRESS) THEN TAKE TO YOUR BANK AND CASH INSTANTLY BECAUSE THEY ARE MONEY ORDERS. Here is where you to send [sic] the companies balance 90% t [sic] below via western union or money gram NAME: Adeyanju Henry ADDRESS: 21 Toyin Street, Lagos, Nigeria, 23401 Text Question: Who Is King? Text answer: God Once you send the money please send the details to this email below have a good day . . . "

According to the complaint, Bickar told federal officials that she "felt sorry for the people to whom she mailed the checks because she knew that the checks were not real and wished that she could have placed "little notes" alerting the recipients that the checks were not real and that they should not be cashed." She said she didn't place those "little notes" because she needed the money.

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