Men behind mystery shopper scam face federal prison time

An ABC7 I-Team Report
CHICAGO (WLS) -- You may have seen those tempting email offers to work as a mystery shopper. Turns out, it's a scam and the ring of con artists are facing sentencing in federal court.

In the widespread mystery shopper scam, unsuspecting victims are sent counterfeit checks to cash, cheating them out of thousands of dollars. Two of those con artists are from Chicago and are now headed to prison.

Federal agents charged Chicago brothers Toheeb and Hafeez Odoffin, along with five others, in an international fraud ring that stole nearly $1.3 million from 500 people. Last week, Hafeez Odoffin was sentenced in Virginia's U.S. District Court to nine years in prison. Toheeb was sentenced in June to five and a half years.

According to the indictment, the ring recruited people as "mystery shoppers" via email, then sent those unsuspecting victims counterfeit checks. Authorities said 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, the bank will hold you responsible for the money.

In August 2014, the I-Team showed how real the checks look. A Lake Zurich woman contacted us after she almost fell for a mystery shopper scheme. At the last minute, she discovered her check for $1,866 was fake.

The Odoffin brothers and their five co-conspirators will pay back that $1.3 million in restitution. Their half-brother in Atlanta will be sentenced on July 20.
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