KPRC 2 Investigates new Zelle scam transferring thousands of dollars from bank accounts
Have you ever received one of those text messages that appear to be from your bank or a retailer confirming a transfer or purchase you didn’t make? By now, you likely know those messages are usually scams. The scammer wants you to click on the link so that you will give them your financial information. But this new scheme takes it a step further.
Several men illegally residing in Houston target elderly in nationwide fraud schemes, officials say
A 24-year-old Indian citizen residing in Houston is the latest suspect taken into custody on charges related to a large nationwide conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced.
Pool contractor charged with stealing more than $150,000 from Spring, Conroe-area families
Investigator Bill Spencer is known for tracking down shady contractors. Hear from two families who say they lost thousands of dollars after hiring a man to put a pool in their backyard. Plus, three things you should do before hiring any contractors for your home.
Houston man sentenced to more than 9 years in prison for getting nearly $1.6M in PPP loans and spending it on Lamborghini, strip clubs
The Houston man accused of going on a shopping spree after receiving more than $1.6 million from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program has been sentenced to 110 months in prison, the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday.
Man accused of stealing money from job seekers by promising city of Houston jobs
HOUSTON – Prosecutors with The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said Larry Aguero was preying on the unemployed. Hayes said Aguero claimed to work for the City of Houston, promising his victims jobs that do not exist. AdThe alarm was sounded after several of the victims confronted Aguero at Aguero’s southwest Houston apartment. Gradually that complainant learned this job doesn’t exist, we don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hayes said. Prosecutors said if you’re ever approached by someone about jobs with the city or county, look for an official I.D.
Houston pharmacy owner and accountant indicted in $134M health care fraud scheme
HOUSTON – Two Houston area men are now in custody on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud relating to a pharmacy fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery announced Tuesday. According to the eight-count indictment, Mokbel is the owner of several Houston area pharmacies, while Elsafty is his accountant. Mokbel also transferred and controlled over $6 million in health care fraud proceeds in certificate of deposit accounts at banks, according to the allegations. AdMokbel and ElSafty have been charged with one count of a conspiracy to commit health care fraud, three counts of health care fraud and four counts of money laundering. The use of telemarketing to target people over 55 as a means to commit health care fraud has an additional penalty of 10 years.
4 Houston medical workers charged in $32M health care fraud scheme
HOUSTON – Four Hillcroft Physician medical workers, including a medical director and operator, are in custody in connection with a $32 million health care fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. Farrah Forough Farizani, 57; Hamid Reza Razavi, 60; Elie Hanna Hajjar, 48; and Juan Acuña, 64, have been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Farizani, Razavi and Hajjar are also charged with five counts of making false statements relating to health care matters. Farizani and Razavi are also accused of directing Hajjar and Acuña to pose as licensed medical professionals, according to the indictment. According to the indictment, the group submitted $31 million in claims to Medicaid, in which Medicaid paid $12.2 million.
CARES Act fraud charges announced in Fort Bend County
RICHMOND, Texas – The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office held a news conference Thursday morning to announce the investigation and filing of fraud charges related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, commonly known as the CARES Act. Watch a live stream of the event in the video above.
Here are 3 things you need to know about peer-to-peer payment apps
HOUSTON – Peer-to-peer payment apps make sending money to friends easy but if you’re not careful, a simple mistake could cause you to lose your hard-earned money. Despite the growing popularity of apps like Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App, most users never read the fine print or terms of service. If you accidentally pay the wrong person, most of the payment apps will not help get your money back. While your credit card offers fraud protection, allowing you to dispute charges, most payment apps do not. Read this story to find out how scammers can wipe out your bank account through these peer to peer payment apps.
Houston businessman under investigation for multiple fraud cases
HOUSTON – A Houston businessman is under investigation for multiple fraud cases, according to police. Houston police arrested 31-year-old Brandon Douglas on Wednesday after they said he tried using a fake temporary Texas driver’s license to buy a $28,000 car. “There was information on the credit application and the temporary Texas driver’s license that didn’t make sense,” said Sgt. They said he was already out on bond for multiple felony cases that he’s been indicted for. According to the website “Skinny Executive Enterprises” is a housing company for marketing, consulting, design and real estate development.
14 people, 1 local company connected to decade-long, $26M international fraud scheme, authorities say
HOUSTON – Authorities have named 15 people connected to a massive, decade-long fraud scheme involving tires from China, according to a release. Zheng “Miranda” Zhou, 53, of Missouri City, and Kun “Bruce” Liu, 40, of Sugar Land, were named yesterday in connection with the fraud. The legal documents said the group “conspired to avoid anti-dumping duties associated with off-the-road (OTR) and light vehicle and truck (LVT) tires from China,” according to the release. According to legal records, the documents were also used to understate the value of the tires, making the duty rate for Winland even lower. Whether direct espionage by the Chinese government or trade fraud like in this case, we will continue to investigate and prosecute every case we can.”
‘Highest crime you can commit’: Incumbent into runoff because of ‘ghost candidate’ reacts to charges in case
Dutton got the highest number of votes during the Democratic primary in March, but not enough to avoid a runoff with the second- and third-place finishers. Prosecutors said Friday that an investigation revealed that the third-place candidate, Natasha Ruiz, was actually Natasha Demming, who filed under a false name. Prosecutors accused Demming of conspiring with Richard Bonton, who was another candidate in the District 142 race, to manipulate the vote. RELATED: 8 months after ‘ghost candidate’ review launched, State Rep. Harold Dutton hoping for justiceBoth Demming and Bonton have been charged with felonies related to tampering with a governmental record. “When somebody steals votes from people, that is about the highest crime you can commit, as far as I’m concerned,” Dutton said.
Former candidate charged with election fraud in case of ‘ghost candidate’ on primary ballot
Former candidate Richard BontonKPRC 2 Investigates has learned that former candidate for state representative, Richard Bonton, has been indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury on multiple charges including election fraud. According to the indictment obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates, Bonton is charged with conspiracy to commit tampering with a government record, tampering with a governmental record and election fraud. While the murder rate in Harris County skyrockets, Kim Ogg chose to use taxpayer funds to pursue a personal attack. What Kim Ogg did today is public corruption at its finest and we will work withFederal authorities to bring justice. Harris County deserves a top cop who is focused on justice, not political favors.
Man wanted in connection to opening 27 fraudulent accounts at Home Depot
Police in West University Place are trying to track down the man accused of using other people’s personal information to open fraudulent credit card accounts at Home Depot. Detective Matthew Sutton said Sutterley used the names, birthdays and social security numbers of other people to open 27 accounts at Home Depot. According to investigators, Sutterley did time behind bars for a similar crime and was released in February of this year. Police said the fraudulent accounts have now been closed and the victim said Home Depot told her she would not be responsible for the charges. Investigators are still trying to figure out how the victims’ personal information was obtained and what happened with the items that were purchased.
Harris County doctor sentenced in $16M Medicare fraud scheme, authorities say
HOUSTON – A Texas physician was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for a $16 million Medicare fraud scheme, federal officials said. Hamilton was convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive health care kickbacks, and two counts of false statements relating to health care matters in October 2019. Members of the conspiracy paid the patients to receive the home health care services, which were often medically unnecessary, not provided, or both, the news release said. Hamilton typically would not release the home health care paperwork until the home health care companies or their marketers paid her the kickback, authorities said, citing evidence from the case. Federal authorities said the scheme resulted in approximately millions in false and fraudulent claims for home-health services to Medicare and in Hamilton receiving over $300,000 in kickbacks.
HPD tracks down serial fraud suspect tied to more than 1,400 cases in several states
HOUSTON – Houston police tracked down a serial fraud suspect tied to more than 1,400 cases in several states and cities, including Houston. Police said Jarius Bell of Ruston, of Louisiana, is connected to at least three cases of vehicle fraud in the Houston area. Bell connected to vehicle fraud cases in Houston, Humble and SpringNot long after his release from jail, Sgt. “You’ll find that in higher premiums, you’ll find that in higher prices for vehicles, you’ll find it in higher interest rates,” Schlosser said. So far this year, Houston police have made 29 separate arrests and prevented $1.23 million in vehicle fraud.
Spring spa owner investigated for consumer fraud after customers charged for services during shutdown
The Harris County District Attorney’s consumer fraud division is building a case against the spa owner who has not yet been charged with a crime. Smith said she was recently contacted by the Harris County District Attorney’s consumer fraud division and learned she was not alone. An investigation was launched after the former spa owner and lienholder claimed the owner cashed a more than $31,000 insurance check at a bank by forging his signature. KPRC 2 called the spa owner for comment and awaiting a response. If you’re a former customer, fraud investigators ask to call the Harris County Constables Dispatch at 281-376-3472.
KPRC 2 Investigates: Fraudsters targeting Texans’ unemployment benefits
HOUSTON – Imagine being laid off and finally receiving notification that your unemployment insurance claim has been approved. For the millions of Texans who have been unemployed due to the pandemic, that approval is great news. RELATED LINK: Texas unemployment numbersBut what if you didn’t file that claim, and someone else is using your name to commit unemployment insurance fraud and receive your benefits? First, filing unemployment is done virtually -- either over the phone -- and that has created an opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage of victims like Smith, by using their identity to file unemployment insurance claims. RESOURCES: How to report unemployment insurance fraud | Fraud hotline: (800) 252-3642 | Email: TWC.fraud@TWC.state.tx.usBernsen said the agency’s main focus is getting legitimate claims paid, so representatives can’t call back every fraud case reported.
Houston woman charged in $2M COVID-19 relief fund fraud
HOUSTON – A Houston woman was charged after she fraudulently obtained more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali, 22, was charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. She received more than $1.9 million in PPP loan funds and after the approval of Lola’s Level application, according to the complaint. Kasali transferred the money in four separate bank accounts after receiving the funds, which were later seized by authorities, according to the charges. She appeared in court before a U.S. Magistrate Judge Christina Bryan in Houston at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Blessing looms: new scam follows old pattern
(NBC NEWS) – A new scam is slowly taking over social media. They’re known as “blessing looms” or “gifting circles.”Participants are promised they will receive thousands of dollars with little effort and a small initial investment. “Most people who get involved with it are going to end up losing money,” warns Kati Daffan of the Federal Trade Commission. They are new versions of an old scam, the pyramid scheme, and any participation in them is illegal. Experts say you should do your research and if one of these “deals” pops up on your social media feed walk away, keeping those hard earned dollars in your wallet.
Houston entrepreneur spent $1.6M in COVID-19 relief funds on Lamborghini, strip clubs: prosecutors
HOUSTON – A 29-year-old Houston man is accused of making fraudulent applications for coronavirus relief aid and then spending the money on luxury items, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Lee Price III was arrested and is charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. Prosecutors said Price was involved in a scheme to submit fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications to federally insured banks and other lenders. “He also allegedly spent thousands at strip clubs and other Houston night clubs,” officials wrote. The PPP allocated $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.
Local pastor, wife accused of defrauding investors, swindling at least 1,000 people out of $500K
On July 22, A Harris County grand jury indicted former pastor Larry Donnell Leonard II and his wife Shuwana on felony charges of securities fraud and aggregate theft. The Leonards own and operate Teshuater, an alkaline bottled water company and Teshua Business Group. “Your 4,000 shares that you purchased today are worth $1,240,” Larry Leonard says on a video recorded in 2017 as his wife sits by his side calculating the math. When reached by phone, Larry Leonard told KPRC 2 on the advice of his attorney, he could not comment on the charges. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office says they are waiting for the couple to turn themselves in.
Warning for Texans: Fraudsters are selling counterfeit, mislabeled or non-existent PPE
As the demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) grows, some suppliers are taking advantage of the national crisis. The Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning the public of scammers advertising masks and other COVID-19 related equipment they do not actually have an inventory of in an attempt to make a quick profit. According to the office, these products may be counterfeit and mislabeled, or non-existent. As fraudulent schemes continue, consumers urged to exercise increased caution when dealing with new suppliers, especially when using a third-party broker, the Office of Texas Attorney General says. Red flags that a sale may be fraudulent include:Unusual payment termsLast-minute price changesLast-minute excuses for delay in shipmentUnexplained source of a large quantity of materialEvidence of re-packaging or mislabelingTexans who believe they have encountered scams or price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online.
Identity thieves targeting local car dealerships during COVID-19 pandemic, police say
HOUSTON – Car dealerships in the Houston area are getting more attention during these uncertain times, but not just from honest consumers. Auto theft investigators from the Houston Police Department said they arrested three people accused of targeting the same local dealership in the span of three days. “When this kind of fraud happens, it impacts the finance teams, the finance companies, the car dealerships, and then goes on down to the consumer,” said RoShelle Salinas, the executive vice president of the Houston Automotive Dealers Association. “That’s why we’re really big in educating our dealerships and working so closely with the Houston Police Department to be able to catch these people. If we weren’t capturing these criminals, then they were just going to the next dealership and the next dealership and on down the freeway to all the dealerships.”
'We fell for it’: Retired couple duped out of $20K by woman claiming to be their granddaughter
They received a phone call back in February from a woman claiming to be their 26-year-old granddaughter, who is in the United States Army stationed in North Carolina. The woman told the Sapps’ she’d been in a wreck, hit a pregnant woman after she’d been drinking and needed $3,000 bail money. The Sapps’ say the man pretending to be the attorney told them he would refund the $3,000 in bail money. Investigators say the phone number that the Sapps’ were given is registered to a 20-year-old young man. The Sapps’ said they wanted to share their story so that what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Texas man facing multiple charges in connection with $5 million coronavirus relief fraud
MAUD, Texas – A Texas man is facing serious charges after fraudulently seeking millions from forgivable loans meant to help businesses suffering in the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Justice. The documents revealed that Yates sought $5 million through the Paycheck Protection Program by claiming he had over 400 employees and a $2 million monthly payroll, according to the DOJ. Yates was also able to get over $500,000 from another lender by claiming he had over 100 employees, the DOJ said. Each application had a list of false names Yates obtained via an online random name generator and forged tax documents, according to the DOJ. Yates is charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to a financial institution, and false statements to the SBA, the DOJ said.
Hillary Clinton calls Donald Trump a "fraud"
Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump a "fraud" for allegedly ripping off students at Trump University. This comes as President Obama jumps into the 2016 presidential race, slamming Trump's proposals as "crazy." CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes joins CBSN with more.cbsnews.com