SAN JOSE, Costa Rica– The Make-A-Wish Foundation says its good name has been exploited by a massive Costa Rica-based phone scam. “Unlike the standard telemarketing frauds … these weren’t people hiding behind a phone number you couldn’t call — a voice you couldn’t recreate. These were people who left telephone numbers and would talk to you,” said Paul Allvin, a vice president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, ABC News reported Friday.
Based in Costa Rica, alleged swindlers wanted by Interpol such as Andy Leimer use Internet phone technology to disguise their location and pretend to be from a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Trade Commission to call potential marks in the United States — sometimes every day for weeks saying they’ve won a million-dollar sweepstakes.
All they have to do is pay tax and insurance fees in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. officials, in concert with top Costa Rican authorities, conducted a raid on 16 boiler rooms in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose in 2006 that resulted in 37 people behind bars, ABC news said, but many escaped the raid.
Leimer, married to a Costa Rican, cannot be extradited but proclaims his innocence, says he will not go to the United States to clear his name.
“He’s currently under indictment, and there is sufficient information and sufficient evidence for us to be able to not only indict him, but also, I feel, definitely put him away,” U.S. Postal Inspector Jose R. Gonzalez said.
When approached for comment, Leimer’s lawyer said, “Gringo, go home.”