Colorado couple duped into laundering money

Posted at 10:44 PM, Apr 25, 2018

AURORA, Colo. -- It’s a common work-from-home scam that has duped many, but this time it has a cryptocurrency twist.

A couple in Aurora, Colorado who did not wish to be identified, shared their story with Scripps station KMGH in Denver about being tricked into laundering thousands of dollars, in order to keep others from falling for the scam as well. KMGH changed their names and disguised their identities to protect them. 

"It all fell apart so quickly," said John, who along with Marie, ignored the red flags all around them. "We don't want to go to jail. We laundered money and we stole money from people, that's what it could look like to someone."

They thought they had found the perfect job: working from home as “financial agents” for a company called Golden Potatoes. At the time, never meeting their boss in person made sense because the company was headquartered out of state and the website looked legitimate.

A Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokesperson told KMGH she sees these schemes often, so does Krista Ferndelli with the Better Business Bureau.

"The contact information. The three people on the site, they may be actual people but they look very much like stock photos," said Ferndelli.

The couple interviewed over the phone and received paperwork detailing the benefits, the salary and the company car. Marie was asked to send a selfie photo of herself holding her ID.

John said his boss “Alex” instructed the couple to open up bank accounts. They would then receive deposits from customers who they believe were paying for a shipment of potatoes or olive oil.

"I felt like it was a prayer answered. Like honestly. This money was real," said John. “This money is legit. This is real cash. This is not a check. Nothing is bouncing. Nothing is being drawn to my attention. I’m going to Wells Fargo. They’re handing me $12,000 in cash. They’re not saying anything to me.”

They would then convert the money to Bitcoin currency and then send it back to "Alex." John and Marie would also get to keep 5 percent of each check, they were told.

"We hear a lot about Bitcoin because it's so new. People are uninformed and unaware. It’s hard to trace. It’s kind of the ideal payment method for fraud," Ferndelli said. 

The couple had processed close to $100,000 when the strangers started calling.

"One of the customers that was supposed to be paying for potatoes and oil says, 'where's my car?'" said Marie.

John and Marie said someone posing as them on Craigslist pretended to sell high ticket items like an ATV or SUV and an interested buyer would pay for it.

“The couple thought they had purchased an ATV for $16,000 off of Craigslist and that, you know, I had sent them my information to confirm that I’m a real person and to put that money into my account.”

The bank froze their accounts and unfortunately, John and Marie had mixed their own money into those accounts, too.

"We have no money because the bank took all of our money," said Marie.

They contacted the FBI and local law enforcement. KMGH reached out to the FBI about John and Marie's case, but they wouldn't comment. KMGH also emailed and called Golden Potatoes, but received no response and were hung up on, respectively.

"I took the brunt of this. I don't want it to happen to anyone else," said John.

Silver Oils and Platinum Oils are both companies linked to Golden Potatoes and have the same address listed for business in Portland. The BBB recently cited Platinum Oils.

For more information about common scams via Wells Fargo, visit this page

The FBI has compiled a list of the most common fraud schemes and it includes tips on how to spot fraud so you don't become a victim.