Scams and Shams — May 2014

News on the scammers who didn't get away with it, including a Los Angeles mother of octuplets and the two men who duped Home Depot for over two years.


"Octomom" could spend up to six years behind bars

Nadya Suleman, the US woman who famously gave birth to octuplets in 2009, is facing four counts of welfare fraud. Prosecutors say the 38-year-old mother of 14 applied for government assistance early last year, but failed to report US$30,000 in income she earned as an exotic dancer and from appearing in adult videos. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office alleges Suleman received US$26,000 in state welfare and medical benefits that she wasn't entitled to and is seeking restitution. Suleman faces up to six years in prison if convicted, but as Deputy District Attorney William Clark said, "She's got 14 children. We'll try to work out a deal for her." The case was still before the courts at press time.


Woman's cancer lie "almost mind-boggling"

Sara Ylen 38, of Michigan, was sentenced to one year in prison for faking cervical cancer and accepting thousands of dollars under false pretenses to fund her "care." Ylen, who forged her medical records using the names of cancer specialists, collected US$100,000 in contributions from well-wishers who thought she was dying. She also owes Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan US$122,000. "All of these fraudulent acts that you perpetrated on so many people, and the extent that you went to perpetrate them, is almost mind-boggling," the county judge said. "You took advantage of the goodwill and generosity of people who were more than willing to assist you, all based on lies."


Accountant commits cruel eBay fraud

UK accountant Simon Nagle, 58, has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for conning victims out of an estimated £70,000 ($130,000) by convincing them to "sell" vouchers on eBay that didn't exist. He targeted unsuspecting vendors with good customer ratings on the online auction site and got them to act as middle men to sell his phoney coupons, which promised discounts at stores including Tesco and Sainsbury's. Since there never were any real vouchers, he simply pocketed the money.


Shoppers scam retailer with sticker switcheroo

Two Michigan men have been jailed in a surprisingly simple scheme that cost Home Depot more than US$300,000 over two years. Chris M. Smith and Larry D. Fields were sentenced to 3½ and 2½ years in prison, respectively, for swapping price code stickers on merchandise at the big box retailer, which allowed the duo to buy expensive products on the cheap and return them at full price. By switching bar codes, for example, Smith purchased US$530 worth of lights for US$40 and an US$85 bath drain for US$4. To get around the store's policy requiring customers to show identification on returns without receipts, Smith and Fields provided 150 different types of ID to more than 100 Home Depot locations in 13 states.