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Police: Residents Get Sweepstakes Scam Letters

Some Halifax residents are receiving bogus sweepstakes letters in the mail, according to Halifax Police Chief D. E. Martin.

After residents complained about the letters, the Halifax Police Department launched an investigation that revealed the check enclosed with the letter is invalid, and the sweepstakes is a scam originating in Alberta, Canada, Martin said.

The letter is from “AT&T Financial Services Consumer Protection Department” and arrives in a plain white letter-size envelope bearing only the recipient’s name and address and a Canadian postage stamp, Martin said. No return address is listed.

The fake letter congratulates the recipient on winning a sweepstakes drawing, which was allegedly organized for “all taxpayers and customers of participating retail stores.” Martin said the letter includes a claim number and a notification that the recipient’s entry slip has drawn lucky winning numbers.

The bogus letter claims that the recipient named in the letter is entitled to a large amount of money, $75,000 or more, payable by certified check that will be delivered by a special courier, the chief said.

The letter encourages the recipient to contact the listed claims agent and to use the enclosed check to pay government service taxes for non-Canadian residents via Western Union. The check shows issuance by “Foster Bank” of Niles, Illinois on the account of “H MART MIDWEST CORP. dba Super H Mart” and is in the amount of several thousand dollars. Martin said Internet fraud Web sites show the checks payable in amounts of $2,800 to $3,700.

Once the recipient cashes the check, he or she is supposed to send the funds to the “tax agent” listed on the letter via Western Union, Martin said. The check will be returned showing that it is a forgery or the account has been closed or does not exist. Because the bank already has debited the recipient’s account for the funds, the scammers have the cash, and the account holder is out several thousand dollars.

Anyone who receives a sweepstakes letter and check should not to cash the check or respond to the letter until the sweepstakes and organization or business has been verified as legitimate, warned Martin.
For questions or concerns regarding the validity of a sweepstakes or promotion, residents should contact their local law enforcement agency or the Better Business Bureau at 804-648-0016.

In other police matters, sheriff’s office records indicate a 40-year-old South Boston woman is facing two felony charges.

• Valerie Denise Hamlett of Fairmont Apartments has been charged with possession of a controlled substance and revocation of first offender status.

The possession offense allegedly occurred Aug. 6 of last year, and first offender status was revoked for an offense that allegedly occurred Jan. 29. Deputy W. G. Nunn served the warrants Tuesday.

•  Mary Margaret Francisco, 44, Burton Road, Scottsburg, was served a capias alleging violation of the terms of her probation.

The offense allegedly occurred May 26, and Deputy T. B. Sargent served the capias Tuesday.

•  Brandy Nichole Beard, 30, Cathy Sue Lane, South Boston, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of contempt of court.

The offenses allegedly occurred July 17 and 27. Sgt. Q. W. Clark served the warrants Wednesday.

•  Leah Lorine White, 31, Mountain Road, South Boston, was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court.

The offense allegedly occurred Monday, and Sgt. D. H. Barksdale served the warrant Tuesday.

•  Michael Dean Marable Sr., 37, Philpott Road, South Boston, was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court.

The offense allegedly occurred Sept. 9, and Cpl. T. C. Spencer served the warrant Wednesday.

•  Antonio Iraheta Ayala, 32, Cathy Sue Lane, South Boston, was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court.

The offense allegedly occurred Sept. 22, and Sgt. Clark served the warrant Wednesday.