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'Mystery shoppers' conned with counterfeit money orders, checks, indictment says

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

Two women from Georgia and West Virginia conned people, including at least two in Western Pennsylvania, into laundering counterfeit money orders and checks from Nigeria by telling them they were acting as “mystery shoppers,” according to court documents.

When the victims' banks learned the orders and checks were counterfeit, they demanded payment from the victims, prosecutors say.

A federal grand jury on Tuesday, in separate indictments, charged Linda Walker, 60, of Oak Hill, W.Va., and Monica Mason, 48, of Lilburn, Ga., with conspiracy and wire fraud.

The Nigerian conspirators would send bulk shipments of counterfeit U.S. Postal money orders, MoneyGram money orders and bank checks to Shawn Foote, 47, of Atlanta, prosecutors say.

Foote recruited Walker and Mason to help her con people into thinking they were acting as mystery shoppers when they used the counterfeits, with apparent values of $850 to $975, to make purchases.

The victims were instructed to wire the remaining money back to Mason and Walker, who then wired some of the money back to Nigeria, prosecutors say. In examples provided in the indictments the victims returned $161.50 to Walker and $585 to Mason.

Foote pleaded guilty in February to fraudulently transmitting postal money orders and passing counterfeit securities. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 28.

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