Canadian couple charged with vintage-car fraud

A Canadian man and woman have been charged with fraud for bilking 11 vintage car fans in the U.S. and Sweden out of $400,000 in an international Internet scam, police say.

    "They used Internet auction sites like EBay, Craigslist and an auction site called Hemmings Auto News," authorities in Calgary reportedly told the Province Newspaper.

    Calgary police commercial crime Const. Dean Nichol — one of several investigators involved in the nine-month probe — explained to the newspaper that people from Sweden contacted Canadian Authorities in October claiming to be duped out of thousands of dollars in an apparent Internet scam.
   
"Basically, they had seen advertisements for vintage Cadillacs and antique-type vehicles," said Nicho.
   
"One fellow spent $80,000 US to purchase three Cadillacs — and that’s just one victim."
   
Calgary police worked with police agencies around the globe, including the RCMP, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the Canada Revenue Agency,    
Canada Border Services and the Swedish National Police, to crack the case.

    The scam artists posted phony pictures of the cars online and "sold" them for an average of $30,000, according to local reports.

"The victims were basically asked to send money by wire transfer from foreign countries into Canada, particularly Calgary," he said. "They would wire the money into these shell companies, which had accounts set up at various banks."

    He said the victims would either never see the vehicle or, in one or two cases, the vehicles that were delivered were "completely derelict and the total opposite of anything that was advertised."

    The nine-month probe resulted in more than a dozen search warrants being executed for bank, phone and Internet records.
  
     "With Internet crimes, the police are forced to treat it like any other crime scene," said Nichol. "An offender will both leave something and take something away from the scene. Although these offenders did use some sophisticated methods to try to avoid discovery, they left a few key footprints and we also traced them through the money trail."

    No money has been recovered.
  
    Charged with a total of 16 counts of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000 is Akthem Saadi Yousif, 31, an Iraqi citizen. Charged with one count each of fraud and theft over $5,000 is Allana Nicole Austring, 31, a Canadian citizen. Both will be transferred to Calgary to appear in court.

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