(KTVI - FOX2now.com) — The new wave of organized crime starts overseas, but recruits people right here to rip off their neighbors. As Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes found out, the criminal recruits don`t even know they`re being used.
Single mother Denise Freeby just found out she was an agent for an international organized crime ring. She said, 'That thought absolutely never entered my mind at all because I would never do anything to harm someone else, indirectly or directly.'
Her job was to ship high end items, already packaged from reputable businesses. It included everything from clothing, purses & shoes, to electronics. Freeby explained she was to be paid, '$40 a package. Some days I`d get three packages.'
She hoped it would be the perfect financial boost for her busy schedule. Freeby said, 'I`m always looking for an extra means of income and I think most people out there are.'
It started with an e-mail from a reputable sounding name - Vanguard. If you Google the log, you`ll see it`s commonly used by legitimate companies. Freeby did not realize -- this particular `Vanguard,` was fictional. Then the Maryland Heights Police Department Fraud Unit knocked on her door.
Det. Sean Fanning said, 'It`s not rare.' Fanning said his Department is seeing about two cases a week. He said, 'These folks are a smokescreen. They don`t know they`re involved in this larger conspiracy - and the conspiracy is to get product from the United States across and into other countries.'
Here`s how it works. International thieves steal credit card numbers off the black market. The thieves are usually from Russia. Then they order from American companies online - or by phone. Since companies often suspect fraud when shipping overseas, the criminals recruit people, in the U.S., with false promises to make money working at home. Then the package is sometimes shipped to several U.S. locations, before heading to the international criminal enterprise.
Chris Hayes asked, 'What`s it costing the international criminals to pull this off?'
Det. Fanning responded, 'Nothing. It`s costing them nothing.'
Shippers like Freeby never get their money. Even the postage is stolen.
Det. Fanning said, 'They`re going to use you until you say where`s my money and that`ll be it.'
Hayes followed up, 'So it`s obviously working for these international criminals because you`re finding these cases.'
Fanning: 'It is. It`s working for them and we want to stop it.'
Police hope if you know about it, you`ll do enough extra checking to stop it.
Looking back, Freeby remembers her daughter`s warning. Freeby explained, '(My daughter) said she wasn`t going to visit me in prison if I ended up going to prison over this. Ha ha ha.'
Freeby doesn`t second guess herself. She`s trying to make a living and she never thought shipping a name brand package -- could be tied to organized crime.
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