Steamboat Springs A 62-year-old Florida man was arrested in his home state and extradited to Steamboat Springs for what police officers say was his involvement in two dozen scams, including one that victimized a local woman.
Steamboat Springs Police Department detectives issued a warrant for Thomas Lewis Herring’s arrest after following a money trail they say led to him. Police say Herring, of Apopka, Fla., played the middle man in a series of scams across the country. He is charged with racketeering, larceny, computer crime fraud, financial transaction device fraud, criminal impostor and possession of tools for forgery.
Detective Dave Kleiber said the case was brought to Steamboat police in September when a local woman reported that she had been bilked out of about $2,500. The woman said she had been contacted by a man claiming to represent a “mystery shopper” organization. He sent her a check and told her to keep some of the money for herself and wire the rest back to Herring. The woman did that once, but when she went to cash the second check, bank agents told her the first check was fraudulent and she lost the money.
After serving an “unusual number of search warrants” to the money wire services, Kleiber said he tracked the accounts to Herring.
Money orders “do leave a pretty easy trail to follow, so if you use those types of things to send funds, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where they originated from and where it went to,” Kleiber said.
According to the warrant issued for Herring’s arrest, Kleiber spoke to him several times on the telephone. During some of the conversations, Herring claimed that he, too, was a victim of a scam or identity theft. In other conversations, Kleiber said Herring admitted that he knowingly was playing a role in the scheme.
“He then admitted that he has been involved in about seven to nine transactions where he has received money via Western Union, kept 10 percent of the money for himself, and then forwarded the remaining money to various individuals both within and outside the United States,” the warrant states.
Kleiber said that from the 24 victims and 29 transfers he has records for, Herring “received $61,967 and sent $42,774,” mostly to South Africa, keeping $19,193 for himself. Kleiber said he tried to get federal authorities involved in the investigation, but they declined because the amount of money involved was not high enough.
The number of people involved in the scams is hard to calculate, Kleiber said, because the organization was nebulous and has members outside the U.S.
Herring was in custody at Routt County Jail on Monday and was not available for comment. Court records show he has requested a court-appointed lawyer, and his next court appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 2. He is charged under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.