NUNICA, Mich. (June 2, 2014) — “This guy really seemed to be up and up,” said Deb Rau of Ottawa County.
More than a month ago, Rau met a man on the web site Date Hookup. He called himself Trey Peterson. She decided to pursue the relationship.
“I hesitated, but he was out of Gaylord, Michgian,” said Rau.
The man said he worked in finances at a military base in Ohio.
They even talked via webcam, and the man on camera matched the pictures posted online.
“He owns two houses in Gaylord, but he was stationed in the big base down in Ohio,” said Rau.
She said Peterson suggested they should meet and told her he could go on three months leave. But she needed to wire him around $2,400 for a plane ticket and other expenses.
Rau said he told her that she would be reimbursed by the military and that a military assistant by the name of Dawn Langenderfer from Bowling Green, Ohio, would pick up the money.
At around 1:00 p.m. the day of the flight, Peterson sent Rau a picture that appeared to show him on a plane with some sort of drink in his hand. “He messaged me stating he would be on the plane that day this time, and I would be there,” said Rau.
She was at the airport an hour early, but Rau said Peterson never got off the plane. “I got there and I waited and waited and waited, and I actually talked to one of the hostesses that stands around and talks. He never came off the plane,” said Rau.
Days later, someone identifying themselves a doctor sent an email that claimed Peterson had been hit by a bus and needed her assistance.
The email read, “Mr. Trey Peterson was on Army Uniform brought unconscious down to my hospital, all researched stated he was coming to you and his leave has been granted already at the army base and that means the army can`t be responsible for his treatments. He sustained a head injury which may cause skull fracture. Can you provide your mobile number and your full address? This is not a scam, I am only trying all my best to save his life. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
There was a picture of a man in bandages, presumably Peterson, but Rau’s suspicion as already growing.
“If you`re at an airport, how would you get hit on a shuttle bus?” said Rau.
She received another email, this time from Peterson. It said that he was at Grand Sand Hospital in Chicago.
At this point, Rau asked Peterson to return her money “He never did answer me about the money,” she said.
We tried to look up “Sand Hospital in Chicago.” We couldn’t find a medical facility by that name on any registry. As for property in Gaylord that Peterson allegedly told Rau he had, we called Mark Reetz with the Otsego County Equalization Department. He said that there were no records indicating that Peterson individually owned property in Gaylord. “I couldn’t find anything in our records for a Trey Peterson. I never found any deeds with his name on it either,” said Reetz.
When Rau called Peterson’s phone, nobody picked up. We called and were able to reach a man at the number, but he hung up when we stated who we were.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating but can’t comment in the specific case at this time.
As for scams, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Bennett said that sometimes it’s difficult to track down someone who’s hiding behind an online address. “Sometimes the IP addresses are assigned statically, and it doesn`t always match up to the suspect. Our experience is that they will typically work in a larger group or a larger enterprise. Most of those tend to be international.”
Because tracking the suspects is difficult, prevention is the key, Capt. Bennett said. “The best advice is to really check these things out before entering any ventures at all.”
Western Union also has a fraud warning: “Only send money to someone you have met in person. Do not send money to someone you met online.”
Rau wants others to learn from her experience.
“I just had that gut feeling,” she said. “I just didn`t go with my gut.”