Scammers posed as pastor, SBI agent to steal victims’ money
Release date: 7/29/2014
Attorney General Cooper urges victims to come forward
Charlotte: A South Carolina man who posed as a Charlotte-area pastor and State Bureau of Investigation agent to steal victims’ money is now behind bars following an investigation by the SBI, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.
Justin DeWayne Moore, age 23, of Greenwood, South Carolina, was arrested late yesterday by the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office and taken into custody based on North Carolina arrest warrants on charges of extortion and impersonating a law enforcement officer. He faces extradition to Mecklenburg County.
The SBI alleges that Moore ran the scheme along with two family members, including one who is currently incarcerated in a South Carolina prison. Additional arrests may be forthcoming.
“Con artists and criminals will pretend to be anyone, including a pastor or an SBI agent, to try to trick you and steal your money,” Cooper warned. “True law enforcement officers won’t call you and demand that you pay money or face arrest, and anyone who says otherwise is breaking the law.”
The elaborate scheme allegedly started on social media, according to reports from victims. Each victim was friended by someone he thought was a woman on social media website mocospace.com, where they chatted and exchanged telephone numbers. The woman then exchanged nude photos with her new online friends.
Victims say they soon got a call from someone who identified himself as the woman’s father. The man, who claimed to be a pastor, allegedly said that he had discovered the photos on his underage daughter’s phone and confronted her, and that she then threw her phone through a window of his church. The man followed up by telling the victim to delete the photos and then asking for help paying to fix the broken window and replace the phone. He also told victims that if they didn’t pay, he would report the matter to the State Bureau of Investigation.
According to victims, they next received a call from someone claiming to be an agent with the SBI and using the name of the actual SBI Special Agent in Charge for the Charlotte field office of the SBI. The person posing as the SBI agent told them to pay between $200 and $400 each via Green Dot MoneyPak cards, a type of reloadable debit card, or face arrest on criminal charges.
The SBI first learned of the scam when victims began to contact the real SBI agent whose name the scammers used. SBI agents worked with their counterparts in South Carolina to unravel the scheme and make the arrest.
Victims are urged to contact the SBI at 1-800-334-3000. Five victims have contacted the SBI directly so far, and agents have learned of other unidentified victims through the course of their investigation. The SBI is aware of victims from Charlotte, Wake County, Stokes County and Oklahoma.
“If you were a victim of this elaborate plot, the SBI needs to hear from you to make sure the criminals behind it don’t get a chance to cheat anyone else,” Cooper said.
Cooper has warned consumers previously about con artists who use social media to befriend victims and then steal from them, such as sweetheart scams, and about criminals who use the threat of arrest to try to scare you out of your money, such as the jury duty scam.
“Remember, people aren’t always who they claim to be online or on the phone,” Cooper warned. “Be very skeptical if someone you don’t really know contacts you and demands money, no matter who they claim to be.”
People who spot a potential scam can report it to Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.
Media Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413