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Four lose thousands to fraud

Staff Reports

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating four recent reports of fraud that cost residents thousands of dollars.

n A disabled Coleville veteran reported he sent $6,850 to Africa in an effort to collect a $650,000 Australian lottery prize;

n A Gardnerville Ranchos woman said she paid $19,500 over a year to an adoption agency in an unsuccessful effort to adopt two 8-year-old boys from Kazakhstan;

n A Minden man reported that someone ran up $20,000 in unauthorized charges on his credit card;

n A Minden woman said she used a new debit card to book a hotel in Las Vegas only to discover days later that her bank account had been hit with $1,200 in unauthorized charges.

All the cases have been turned over to Douglas County investigators.

The 63-year-old Coleville man, who has moved to the Veterans Administration hospital in Reno, said he was informed in October that he had won the lottery prize.

He told deputies a cashier’s check for $6,850 was sent to his home to cover the expenses of collecting the prize.

He deposited the check and followed instructions to send two personal checks to Africa by Western Union.

He was then informed by his bank that the cashier’s check was worthless and the $6,850 was deducted from his account which resulted in an overdraft.

The 55-year-old woman who was hoping to adopt the little boys said she learned of Yunona USA Inc. adoption agency through the Better Business Bureau.

She began working with the agency in January 2005. At that time it was located in Napa, Calif. In July, she said she received an e-mail that the adoption agency had relocated to Florida.

The woman said she had daily e-mail or telephone contact with her representative, identified as Elina Valiev. On Jan. 12, the victim said she was informed the adoption would not be completed after she spent $19,500.

The woman said she left several telephone and e-mail messages that were not answered.

The telephone numbers have been disconnected.

The Minden man whose credit card was used for $20,000 said the charges began in December after his wife lost her purse in South Lake Tahoe.

Purchases on the card were made in Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro and Union City, Calif.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta reminded residents to be vigilant about releasing personal information and monitoring their financial accounts.

“Someone using your personal or banking information can steal more money by use of a computer than can a crook physically walking into the bank to commit a robbery,” he said.

“The list of schemes to obtain information or money is endless. Everyone should be vigilant to the existence of these frauds and take necessary precautions to protect their personal and financial information.”