TUCSON – Through a civil forfeiture proceeding, the Attorney General’s Office has recovered $28,000 for a vulnerable adult who fell victim to a dark web phishing scam. The investigation was conducted by the Attorney General’s Special Investigations Section (SIS) and Financial Remedies Section (FRS).
Investigators say scammers initially made contact with the 72-year-old victim via Facebook and then the communication moved into emails and text messaging. After trust was established, the scammers convinced the victim to send a series of payments totaling $28,000 to remove her personal information from the dark web. A financial institution contacted SIS in August about the transactions and an investigation was launched. Using bank records and information from the victim’s smartphone, SIS identified the bank account where the payments were sent and deposited. That account was opened by a man using his Ghana passport as identification. Because scammers often transfer stolen funds out of the country quickly, SIS and FRS secured the funds through a seizure warrant served on that bank account. FRS then initiated a forfeiture proceeding to divest the funds from the fraudster and return the funds to the victim. Within 59 days, FRS obtained a court judgment forfeiting the funds from the fraudster and returning the $28,000 to the victim.
Under Arizona law, law enforcement can use civil forfeiture statutes to seize and forfeit property that’s been used in criminal activity and compensate victims who suffered economic loss from the activity.
“Civil forfeiture is an important strategic tool we can use to recover compensation for racketeering victims," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “In these situations, we can often get victims their money back quickly and well before any criminal case can be issued and restitution can be obtained.”
Investigators are currently trying to track down the suspects who may reside in the United States.
FRS Attorney Tom Rankin handled the forfeiture proceeding.
The SIS investigating case agent is Special Agent Roger Nusbaum.