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After mine tragedy, FBI warns public of bogus e-mails
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


January 13, 2006
Friday AM

Seizing on a national outpouring of sympathy for the sole survivor of the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia, a flood of bogus e-mails - purportedly from a doctor treating him - have been sent asking for empathy and money.

Forwarded to a number of staff at the West Virginia University hospital where the miner is being treated and an untold number of other people over the Internet, the messages are part of an online scam the FBI has tagged as fraudulent, bureau officials said.




"The notion of defrauding members of the public who earnestly believe that their hard-earned dollars will be donated to the victim of a tragedy is simply reprehensible," said Jeff Killeen, the supervisory special agent for the FBI's Pittsburgh division.

The messages claim to be from Dr. Lawrence Roberts, a physician in the intensive care unit of WVU's Ruby Memorial Hospital, and go into detail about the condition of Randal McCloy.

The message reads: "We needed your generous financial assistance to our beloved citizen, brother and friend Mr. Randal McCloy to enable him (to) undergo all the Surgical Operations and Medical treatments which will cost Several Millions of Dollars in serving (sic) his life and bringing him to his normal state of life."

It says McCloy needs "at this point your financial donations and prayers," and "no amount is too small or big for us to undergo the surgical operation."

The FBI is warning people not to reply to the messages and to alert the agency's Internet Fraud Complaint Center at if they receive the e-mails.

Authorities informed the public after phone calls began trickling into the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center in Morgantown. Staff members alerted the FBI, which immediately began investigating the veracity of the messages.

Killian said the investigation was in its earliest stages, and that the FBI issued the warning to the public as soon as agents were able to identify the e-mails as fakes.

After talking with hospital officials and Roberts, who is indeed a physician at Ruby Memorial, agents deduced that the messages were a scam.

Agents were unable to determine where the messages had originated, but the hospital was suggesting the e-mails could have come from as far away as India.

This is not the first case of Internet fraud in the wake of national and international tragedies reported to the FBI. Several scams surfaced after the tsunami decimated Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

"It's troubling," said Bill Case, the director of public information for the WVU health center. "But sadly, it's not surprising,"


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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