The feds say a 28-year-old man from Chicago and his 47-year-old partner in crime recruited people all over the country to serve as "mystery shoppers." Authorities say the scheme involved counterfeit checks and promises of easy work.
Toheeb Odoffin, 28, from Chicago pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and aggravated identity theft in this plea agreement.
U.S. attorneys at a federal courthouse in Newport News, Virginia said he and a 47-year-old woman from Texas engaged in an extensive scheme operating nationally and internationally.
According to the indictment the two would recruit people as "mystery shoppers" via e-mail - then send those unsuspecting victims counterfeit checks. Authorities say the scheme was to tell the so-called shoppers to cash those bad checks at their own bank, keep a portion of the money for their mystery shopping work , then wire the rest back to the two suspects.
And if you cash one of those checks, your bank will hold you responsible for the money.
"The check is so authentic looking that your bank will most likely deposit the check," Debbie Arthur said after contacting the I-Team.
In August 2014, the I-Team showed you how real the checks look. Arthur, of Lake Zurich, almost fell for a mystery shopper scheme but at the last minute discovered her check for $1,866 was fake.
A real mystery shopper agency in Chicago's Loop said no assignment would ever involve wiring money or sending funds back to the agency.
"If somebody says you've got to send me money before you become a shopper- RUN!" said Vince Norton, of Norton Norris.
The I-Team reached out to the Chicago suspect's attorney but did not hear back. He faces a maximum penalty of 32 years in prison.
To become a real mystery shopper, visit mysteryshop.org to find opportunities in the area. A real firm may interview you and properly train you before you go to work.