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Oct 28, 2004

Major cases of fraud bag conartists $72,000+

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Tonight members of the crimes investigation branch continue to investigate two major cases of fraud in the Belize District that are suspected to have earned two con artists more than seventy-two thousand dollars. In the first case, a Belize City family reported to authorities that they were at home when a man approached them with the intent of selling several lots in the city. To bolster the appearance of being legit, reports are that the man even took members of the family to different areas of the city for a physical inspection of the property. In the end, the family took the bait. According to officers working the case, believing that they were buying as many eighteen parcels of land valued at four thousand dollars each, family members forked over seventy-two thousand dollars. But this is what they got, fake land titles, complete with the forged signature of the Minister of Natural Resources John Briceño, a phoney seal and the fake signature of a former government employee. The family even got receipts for their money, signed in the name of Assad Shoman Junior, the man who they were told was the original owner of the properties. According to commanding officer of the CIB, Inspector Santiago Ciau, the department has already determined that all the documents given to the family are forgeries and more disturbingly, several others might have been conned with the same scam.

Inspector Santiago Ciau, Sr., Commanding Officer, CIB

?He furnishes them with so call land titles which we have investigated and found out that they are all false documents based on the investigation conducted with the lands department. A name that appears on the land is of a former employee of the lands department. We have found out that the seal on the document is a false seal. At this point in time the police is conducting investigations to try and locate this person because these victims are concerned not only because they have lost money but also because they are other victims apart from them who is being con by this person.?

The suspected con artist has been described to News 5 as a man of fair complexion, about five feet nine inches in height who consistently carries a large hand bag to hide what is believed to be a hernia.

In the second case, a woman from Maskall has been arrested and charged after she used her job with area representative Max Samuels to rob what is believed to be a number of people of hundreds of dollars. According to the cops, twenty-six year old Odette Arzu Michaels worked as a secretary for Samuels but it is believed that sometime during this year, she began collecting money on the pretext of facilitating the lease land process for people applying for property near mile thirteen and a half on the Northern Highway and in the Maxboro community. It is alleged that Arzu’s story is that she needed the money to pay for surveys of the lots. But when one of her “clients” grew suspicious at the length of time the process was taking and did a check of her own at the Lands Department, the gig was up and the matter was handed over the cops.

Santiago Ciau

?The investigation of the police reveal that the girl Michaels had collected form two persons; a fee of four hundred dollars claiming that she need the fee to do surveys for the lot. We found out it was not so. She had been using the money for her own use and this was down after she had left the office of Mr. Samuels. Based on that we conducted a further investigation and found out that there are many more applications made by several residents in that area. The fact is that they have not come into the office yet to make any report. But so far we have three complainants who made the report and we are currently investigating this matter.?

As in the first case, even though only three people have come forward so far, police believe Odette Arzu Michaels may have conned several others out of hundreds of dollars. Arzu-Michaels have since been charged with two counts of obtaining property by deception but additional charges are expected to be filed against her at a later date.

Investigators tell News 5 that these types of cases have been happening countrywide and tonight, the police department is advising all Belizeans to be especially vigilant when dealing with land transactions.

Santiago Ciau

?I advise that before doing transactions they must check the documents properly and make proper checks at the Lands Department to confirm if indeed this particular land do exist and if it is, check to see if it is in the individual?s name or not so that they can do a legal transaction and before making payments. You must do the transaction to confirm and once you confirm that it is legally owned by the individual, and then you can do your business to get land title.?

If you believe you that you have been a victim of either persons described in these stories, please contact the police department or 9-2-2 if you have any information that may assist authorities in their investigations.

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