Two Columbus residents are among three individuals charged in connection with a $5 million online vehicle-sale scam.
35-year-old Terry Boutwell and 39-year-old Tiffany Strobl along with 39-year-old Shalitha Schexnayder of Miami, FL all face a count of participating in a money laundering conspiracy. Boutwell has also been charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of concealment money laundering. According to court documents, the scheme involved vehicle sale listings on legitimate websites. The trio enticed buyers by pricing the vehicles below market value and promising transactional security through an eBay Buyer Protection Program. Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, says the defendants had no such relationship with eBay and connected buyers to a fictitious eBay representative.
“This fraud is the result of a complicated scheme that involves conspirators setting up dozens of different LLCs that would control bank accounts from which they could direct payment and withdraw payment,” Glassman said. “It involves posing as sellers and posing as eBay representatives and emailing to complete the transactions. According to this investigation, there were over 600 victims throughout the country of this fraud scheme, including several here in Columbus.”
Glassman offers the following advice for consumers.
“In this case and every case, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it may well be,” Glassman said. “You should do whatever research you possibly can to verify who’s on the other side that you’re corresponding with. In this particular case and for this kind of scam, if you’re looking to buy a car, the best way to protect yourself from a scam like this is to actually inspect the vehicle in person. Short of that, you just don’t know when you are dealing with people over the internet who’s really on the other side.”
Glassman says investigators are working to track down the funds, but he also cautions that authorities may not have identified all the victims. He encourages residents who may have been victimized by this fraud to contact authorities at the following number 866-532-9098.