"Black Money Scam" hits the Tri-State

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A new scam hitting the Tri-State is like nothing we've ever seen here, and if you fall for it, it'll cost you.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is calling it the "Black Money Scam."

Police say there are three suspects from the east coast that have recently arrived in the Tri-State with props to perform the scam.

Police won't tell us exactly where they were operating in the Tri-State, but we do know it was out of a hotel along I-71 in Hamilton County.

Investigators say they received a call from the hotel about some possible drug activity in one of the rooms. It wasn't drugs, but an elaborate plan to steal lots of money.
This trick all starts with a briefcase mixed with some "actual money", but mostly black construction paper. As the suspect approaches a victim, they explain why the money is black.
"They'll say to get through customs to cross the border, wherever they're claiming they're bringing it from, that this was a process they had to setup this elaborate scheme," said Mike Robison with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

From there, the suspects say they need money from the victim to buy specific, expensive chemicals to clean the thousands of dollars in the briefcase for it to be usable.

They'll even demonstrate this process with one of the few "actual" bills to prove it's real money. But investigators say those chemicals aren't that complex.
"Flour, black construction paper, glue, things you would get at Michael's Crafts or wherever," said Robison.

Once all that money in the briefcase is clean, the victim gets a cut of it plus their initial portion to pay for the chemicals. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says they've never seen a case like this. In fact, the closest city with a similar scam is Louisville.

"All we know is that they have all the materials that are consistent with the things that we've seen across the country in talking to other law enforcement agencies," said Robison.

Robison says so far no victims have come forward, and it's unclear how the suspects lure their targets. But he says they could prey on anyone.

"Some people could say how could you really fall for something like this? Well folks are in tough times sometimes and see an opportunity like this where they think it's a big gift, a big lottery ticket," said Robison.

This warning isn't just for Hamilton County.

"They're notorious for going from place to place and that's why not only for Cincinnati, not only for Hamilton County, we're trying to get the word out," said Robison.

The suspects have not been charged with anything so they aren't in police custody. Deputies say after speaking with them, their stories aren't adding up, so be careful.

If you are a victim or know anything about this scam, call Crimestoppers 352-3040.

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