Belleville fraud victim gets early Christmas present from U.S department of justice in Western Union payout

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John Wilson is getting an unexpected Christmas gift – courtesy of the United States Department of Justice.
The Belleville grandfather, known best as Cymbals, the costumed cymbalist at area hockey games, lost about $5,000 to a 2010 phone scam.

But he’s just received a letter indicating he’s about to get a refund, part of a $586-million forfeiture by Western Union after the company admitted to breaking American laws by processing hundreds of thousands of fraudulent transactions.

In September 2010, Wilson returned home to Belleville after a four-day fishing trip.

He was just settling in at his west-end home when the phone rang. The male caller called him by name.
Wilson thought it was his son-in-law calling, and said the man’s name.

“I was out with a bunch of guys and I got caught for drunk driving,” said the caller, claiming he was in a Toronto jail. He added his father could give him the money to pay for a lawyer, “but I’d rather get it from you. “Don’t tell my wife,” the caller added and provided the purported name of a Toronto lawyer.

“He was pretty close to the same voice,” recalled Wilson, who’s now 75. “I said, ‘You don’t sound good.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m in jail. I’m not feeling good about it.’”

Wilson agreed to the transfer. He borrowed the money at the bank and then sent it from a local business.
“I hated to part with that $5,000,” he said.

But the next day, Wilson learned his son-in-law hadn’t been in Toronto at the time, hadn’t been charged, wasn’t in jail and hadn’t called him.

“What a shock that was,” said Wilson, who reported the crime to police and later told his story in The Intelligencer in the hope others wouldn’t fall for the fraud.

Wilson said he was later shown “a video of a guy picking up my money at a big store in Vaughan,” but he couldn’t identify the person in the poor-quality images.

He resigned himself to paying off his bank loan.

Wilson had retired from Sir James Whitney School but was still working there on contract as a residential counsellor.

Seven years passed.

Wilson opened his mail one day to find a letter bearing the Department of Justice logo.

Western Union agreed in January 2017 to forfeit $586 million, admitting to having processed the fraudulent transactions “for Western Union agents and others involved in an international consumer fraud scheme” between 2004 and 2012, the department’s press release explained.

Victims who sent money through the company between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017 may be eligible for compensation, the release added.

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This story was summarized by Canadian Fraud News Inc.