North Aurora woman scam $230k allegedly for crimes she didn’t commit
CHICAGO (CBS) – A senior citizen of North Aurora is charged with money laundering and drug trafficking, but that is not the case.
To clear her name, she needed to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars into a newly opened account for herself.
You know where this is going.
Morning insider Lauren Victory takes us through the complex and costly scam.
Henriette Schmuhl showed a brave face to her grandchildren, cooing, laughing and playing with them. On the inside, she is a sphere of emotions.
“I was very scared. I was very scared. And lied,” said Schmuhl, who describes herself as a good Christian woman.
For nearly two months, the 74-year-old man had been missing for hours. Her family thought she was sick, so she kept it a secret for treatment. Instead, Schmuhl visited various bitcoin machines to convert part of his life savings into digital currency.
She showed us big withdrawals from her retirement account. $150,000 here. $30,000 there. It started with an urgent phone call in May.
“‘I want to let you know that there is a warrant for your arrest.” I never did anything,” Schmuhl said, recounting an initial phone call with a man she knew as “Andrew Hall.”
Hall said he works for the Department of Homeland Security. He provided her with his badge number and subpoena file number, telling Schmuhl to call the police if she didn’t trust him. But if she calls, ‘I’d better bring my lawyer with me because I’m going to be arrested.’
The fake federal agent continued to communicate via phone calls, via the Telegram app, and in writing. He told the retiree she needed a new social security number because she was a victim of identity theft.
“Before we change your social security number, we will have to move money out of your account to protect you,” says Schmuhl.
When she couldn’t convert her cash to Bitcoin anymore, Hall convinced her to use her credit card to buy gift cards. The rationale there? That with her new social security number, she might have trouble getting a credit card because she doesn’t have a credit history. So she should hit her credit line now and she will get her money back later.
Schmuhl spent more than $17,000 on gift cards. Whenever she objected, Hall had an answer.
“I’m saving you. I’m helping you,” she said Hall told her. She thought he was her friend.
Then one day her best friend didn’t answer. His phone says it’s disconnected.
North Aurora Police Department investigators reviewed all of this information and then the FBI stepped in. Cybersecurity experts have traced the scammers to Malta – an island in the Mediterranean thousands of miles from Schmuhl that their families are in awe of. They started a GoFundMe to help her accumulate her savings.
Janelle Hutchison, Schmuhl’s daughter-in-law said: ‘I know how hard she worked and letting that money go away completely, it broke my heart.
She hopes her $230k mistake is a warning to all generations, which is why she wanted to share her story.
The Social Security Administration indicates that callers who threaten that you will be arrested or that you will lose your social security number are scammers. Hang up if you receive a suspicious call. Here are some other tips: