By Danny Fenster
Paper money has often been cited as one of the dirtiest materials we touch every day. But if someone offers to wash it for you, kindly decline.
Authorities in Providence, R.I. last week arrested two Liberian nationals in an expanding “black money” scheme that has already cost three New Englanders $170,000, reports the Associated Press. The Secret Service is now looking into the scam.
The con artists seek out victims at night clubs and other locations, looking for people that seem to be well-off. They tell victims that they have real currency died black to avoid detection by customs officials when forced from their countries, according to the AP, and cannot afford the chemical mix needed to wash the bills back to normal. They will demonstrate the cleaning process with a few bills as a trap, a process that one agent said is very convincing.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Thomas M. Powers, U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge in Providence, according to AP.
Victims will withdraw money and follow the criminals to a hotel, where the money is to be washed in a solution of chlorine, ammonia and laundry detergent mixed in a bathtub. The mix gives off a smell so powerful that the victim is usually overcome to the point that they leave the criminals alone with the money. Then the victims and criminals leave the room for a meal, and the criminals hand over the room and safe keys to the victim. When the victims return to the safe they are left with stacks of black construction paper.
Powers told the AP the scam is taking place mostly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and investigators believe their are 20 scammers involved, and additional victims that may be too embarrassed to come forward. They believe the scam to be spreading out across New England, and while authorities aren’t sure how the money is spent, there is no evidence of violence or connections to terrorism.
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