News from BSO

ILLUSIONISTS TRICKS REALLY A SCAM

BSO Case Number: BS07-09-4561
PIO Number: 07-9-17
Date: September 18, 2007
Place of Occurrence: 1156 NW 31 Avenue, near Fort Lauderdale
Jurisdiction: Unincorporated Central Broward

Victim(s):

  • State of Florida

Suspect(s):

  • 1. Jean-Luc Mbilli, 41, 5/24/66, male, 3300 NE 191 Street, #1803, Miami
  • 2. Constant Yao, 37, 6/30/70, male, 3901 South Ocean Drive, Hollywood

Description of Incident:

How many times have you heard the cliché if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is? It seems to bear repeating after a store clerk was almost scammed out of thousands of dollars. Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives believe there may be other victims.

Members of the BSO Economic Crime Unit and agents with the United States Secret Service recently conducted a joint investigation after suspects Jean-Luc Mbilli and Constant Yao promised they could double a store clerk’s money by duplicating the currency then splitting the “new money” 50/50.

Samith Ghazawi, a clerk at Alzoupi Brothers convenience store, located at 1156 NW 31 Avenue near Fort Lauderdale, told investigators that on two occasions Mbilli demonstrated how to duplicate the money by performing an illusion with a “special potion”. When the suspects upped the ante and asked Ghazawi to provide them with $15,000, BSO detectives moved in conducting an undercover operation and providing the “buy” money for the meeting at the convenience store on Tuesday, September 18. During that meeting, Ghazawi said he had $3,000. Mbilli said it wasn’t enough and refused to perform the service. Mbilli and Yao were taken into custody without incident. Mbilli was arrested on one count of grand theft and possession of a suspended driver’s license, and Yao was arrested for possessing a fictitious driver’s license. Yao admitted to having the license made, and he refused to provide his true identity. Detectives recovered several cans and bottles and a metal box filled with blank papers matching the size of U.S. currency that they say are consistent with props used in the “black money scam.”

The “black money scam”, sometimes called the “wash wash scam”, is an advanced fee scam where con artists obtain money from their victims by convincing them that piles of black coated paper (dyed for security reasons) are really US dollars, and the scammers claim to have the potion or chemicals to clean the stained money - for a fee of course. The crooks usually make their first contact by e-mail. They send a notice to several thousand unsuspecting victims posing as a lawyer searching to find living heirs to a wealthy estate. But before you can claim the trunk full of money, certain fees, government taxes and other expenses must be paid. Eventually, the “cash” filled trunk is sent, along with a broken bottle of the potion needed to remove the black dye. Hence, the victim is instructed to send more money for more of the cleaning chemical and hopes that it doesn’t break again during transport. Or for the more skeptical, the scammer will agree to show his victim the money. When the two meet to inspect the safety deposit box, the conman removes one of the black banknotes, and with a slight of the hand appears to wash the note. In reality, the suspect switches the black paper with real money, then “accidentally” knocks the chemical on the floor.

If you or anyone you know has fallen prey to this scam, please contact BSO Economic Crime Detective John Murray at (954) 321-4255 or call Broward Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at (954) 493-TIPS or online at www.browardcrimestoppers.org.

PHOTO OPP TODAY: THE MATERIALS RECOVERED FROM THE SUSPECTS’ VEHICLE (BOTTLES WITH LIQUID, METAL BOX, BLANK PAPERS) WILL BE DISPLAYED AT THE BSO MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE TODAY AT 2 P.M. BSO ECONOMIC CRIME DET. JOHN MURRAY WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS.

INVESTIGATORS: Economic Crimes Det. J. Murray, RID; Economic Crimes Sgt. J. Leiner, RID; Central Broward
THIS REPORT BY: Veda Coleman-Wright & Keyla Concepción/PIO 9/25/07 1115

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