Dec. 01--PLATTSBURGH -- A Texas woman came close to losing $21,000 after a phone call saying that her grandson was in Clinton County Jail.
The caller claimed to be an attorney, Plattsburgh City Police said in a press release, who told the 74-year-old woman that the young man had been charged with driving while intoxicated and needed bail money.
She followed the instructions the "attorney" gave her, tucking $21,000 cash in the pages of a magazine, which she then sent out by FedEx overnight delivery to Plattsburgh Mail and Shipping Center, located at 334 Cornelia St. in Plattsburgh.
But then she thought about it, police said, and began to worry she had been the victim of a scam.
She called FedEx's Plattsburgh location and asked that the package be held.
"Fortunately, FedEx was able to intercept the package prior to delivery and turned it over to City Police detectives," the release said.
That incident happened Oct. 2, so police were not altogether surprised to get another call last week, this time from a Colorado man.
His mother, he said, had been told he was incarcerated and needed bail money.
She had shipped $9,000 hidden in a magazine via UPS from her home in Carson City, Nev.
"Using a tracking number provided by the Colorado man, detectives learned that the parcel had been delivered to (Plattsburgh Mail and Shipping Center) within the last 15 minutes," City Police said.
Detectives responded post haste and intercepted that package, too.
"After the detective left," Plattsburgh Mail owner Weena Boyle told the Press-Republican, "my coworker said, 'There's another package that looks identical to that."
They felt it, she said, and it seemed very possible there was a magazine inside.
So she called City Police.
Boyle said she had suggested that the detectives let the parcel be for the time being and watch to see who came to pick it up.
That's just what they did, City Police said -- set up surveillance.
"Several hours later, a Burlington, Vt., man arrived and took delivery of the package," police said in the release.
"Detectives stopped the man and determined he is the owner of a legitimate delivery business; he had been hired by another person to come to Plattsburgh to pick up the package, then deliver it to a (hotel in Burlington)."
Instead, police opened it up, finding $8,000 among the leaves of a magazine.
And tracking it back to the sender, who Boyle said lives in New Jersey, they found this person, too, had been made victim of the same scam -- told a relative was in jail; send cash bail.
Police returned a total $38,000 to the victims.
"They are very good at what they do," Boyle said. "It's super easy to work with them."
Police said Monday that the investigation was continuing, following several leads.
Now, she is watching for other packages that might have already been shipped when City Police sent out its media release about the scams.
Otherwise, she said, "they won't be sending them here anymore."
She hopes other businesses in the area that accept packages will be wary, as the schemers may pick another location not far away -- or are maybe already using other mail centers.
Plattsburgh Mail and Shipping Center offers services such as mailbox rental and mail and package receiving.
Many customers are Canadians, who can get their mail from the United States more quickly if they drive across the border to a place like Boyle's center or who order items that aren't sent internationally.
Often, people who make eBay purchases use the center.
It is not necessary to rent a mailbox; many either call to say they're expecting a parcel or they complete a form online. It costs $5 per package for that service.
Boyle said she would have had no way of knowing those packages contained thousands of dollars acquired through a scam.
"We don't do anything illegal here," she emphasized. "We always, always, always work with law enforcement.
"I'm only guilty of owning a mail and shipping center."
And by virtue of the services offered, she said, "scammers target these kinds of businesses."
The swindles, she said, "are a horrible thing, and it really upsets me."
Email Suzanne Moore:
(c)2015 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)
Visit the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) at pressrepublican.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News