Lake councilman victim of truck sale scam | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

A career con man is wanted by police after allegedly scamming a Lake County councilman and U.S. Congressional candidate out of $48,000 while posing as a fake buyer for a commercial milk tanker truck, records show.

Steven Wayne Eckel, 57, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was charged Monday in Lake Superior Court with corrupt business influence, a Level 5 felony; fraud, a Level 6 felony; and theft, a Level 6 felony.

A Google account linked to his burner cell phone number showed he had texted 120 other people across the U.S. pulling the same scheme, records show. The probable cause affidavit alleges Eckel has a revolving door of felony convictions for forgery, check fraud and theft in Missouri, Oklahoma and mainly Arkansas dating back to the early 1990s.

Eckel is not currently in custody, according to online court records. His bail has been set at $40,000, or $4,000 cash surety.

Councilman Randy Niemeyer, R-Cedar Lake, told Lake County Sheriff’s Office Det. Commander Michael Stewart that he got a text from an interested buyer Aug. 1 after he put a commercial milk truck from his family’s business up for sale on

Niemeyer responded with some screenshots of the truck and they settled on a $43,000 sale price. The next day, he got a call from a man on a different number saying he was the buyer.

The man said he was sending a check for $48,000 — addressed to Niemeyer Milk Transfer, Inc. — and gave a tracking number. He asked Niemeyer to wire the extra $5,000 to another person for transportation costs, who is not currently charged.

Niemeyer wired the money. Two days later, he reported the same man texted him, saying his buyer backed out. Niemeyer agreed to refund the money, sent to an Arkansas Federal Credit Union account under registered to Steven Eckel.

He said he thought the check had already cleared, because the money appeared to be available in his account.

He wired the $43,000 to Eckel.

Niemeyer’s bank returned Eckel’s check on Aug. 8, calling it a “fraudulent item.”

Investigators learned through subpoenas that Eckel only opened the Arkansas credit union bank account on July 31. He used a driver’s license he only got a month before.

Eckel immediately transferred $3,500 to his other account at the same credit union. He then transferred $25,000 first to Community First Savings Bank, then to a account.

Investigators weren’t able to freeze the $25,000. They identified Eckel via security videos at the Arkansas BMV and a bank.

Both numbers he used to contact Niemeyer were burner phones, court records show.

He used the same scheme — sending a check, then asking for the money back before the money had been “verified and cleared” — across the country. Eckel also has active arrest warrants for larceny, a parole violation and for an extradition request, the affidavit shows.

Niemeyer said he fell victim to what is called an overpayment scam, and it can happen to anyone. The request to transfer the tow funds was not unusual for the type of purchase, and the check from the buyer came from a credit union known to make heavy equipment loans, he said.

“You feel violated, vulnerable. I went through the same process anybody else would. ‘What did I do wrong?’,” he said, adding the scam is common with people who sell online. The perpetrator agrees to the purchase, and for some reason has a need to overpay.

So far Niemeyer has been able to recover about $15,000 and is unsure if the remaining funds will be restored. The alleged conman moved the funds to a crypto currency account which is more difficult for law enforcement to track.

“I am hopeful we will be made whole in this thing. The sheriff’s detectives were absolutely outstanding in their work. I have to take my hat off to their skill. There were absolute bulldogs at this thing,” Niemeyer said, adding it helped that he kept good records and had an email and text “paper” trail of his interactions with the alleged conman that helped police track him down.

He encouraged anyone selling online to use the same precautions. Without the records, Niemeyer said, police likely would not have had the success they had in tracking him down.

Small businesses are targeted for these types of scams more than people realize, he said.

“I am hopeful that people who might read about this say you know what, we all need to be diligent,” Niemeyer said.

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