Dayton Daily News
Three charged with money laundering in car-selling scam
Sophisticated online operation foiled by feds.
Federal prosecutors COLUMBUS — announced charges against three people who allegedly bilked hundreds of people out of millions of dollars in an online vehicle sales scheme.
Terry J. Boutwell, 35, and Tiffany A. Strobl, 39, both of Columbus, and Shalitha R. Schexnayder, 39, of Miami, Florida, face felony counts and potentially decades in prison after a years-long, multistate investigation.
“It was a sophisticated scheme ... with literally dozens of companies, dozens of bank accounts, and all conducted over the internet so that the customers didn’t know the true identities of the people with whom they were communicating,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman said Thursday.
The alleged scam worked like this: Listings were posted on websites, including Craigslist and Cars.com, for all-terrain vehicles, cars and other vehicles, seeking quick sales at discounted prices. Often, Glassman said, the low prices were attributed to divorce or owners who were in the military and being transferred out of state.
Buyers would contact the sellers, who would then make arrangements for money to be transferred using what was purported to be online seller eBay’s buyer protection program. Buyers would then call provided phone numbers and be greeted with assurances that their money would be held in escrow until vehicles were delivered and accepted, Glassman said.
Everything looked legitimate, including receipts and order numbers. However, once the funds were transferred, they were quickly withdrawn, with no vehicles delivered or any trace of the sellers.
Ryan L. Korner, specialagent-in-charge at the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation office in Cincinnati, said the complicated scheme took time to identify, but the perpetrators are facing stiff penalties.
Boutwell faces three counts of wire fraud, three counts of concealment of money laundering and one count of participating in a money-laundering conspiracy. Strobl and Schexnayder face single counts of participating in a money-laundering conspiracy.
Each of the counts carries up to 20 years in prison.
The cases filed in federal court include forfeiture counts, and Glassman said prosecutors will work to recover money and other assets, with hopes of providing some reimbursement to victims.
“We are monitoring this activity at all levels,” Korner said. “...You may be making a lot of money now, but you will be caught; you will be held accountable.”
Glassman also urged consumers to be wary of online sales that sound too good to be true, particularly those involving the direct transfer of money.
“You should do whatever research you possibly can to verify who’s on the other side that you’re corresponding with,” Glassman said.
For those considering purchasing vehicles online, “The best way to protect yourself from a scam like this is to actually inspect the vehicle. Short of that, you just don’t know, when you are dealing with people over the internet, who’s really on the other side,” he said.