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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Georgia Woman Charged In Nigerian "Mystery Shopper" Scam

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Georgia has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of fraud conspiracy and wire fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

The two-count indictment named Monica Mason, 48, as a defendant.

According to the indictment, Mason was involved in a Nigerian “Mystery Shopper” scam whereby her coconspirator Shawn Foote knowingly prepared and addressed fraudulent mail containing counterfeit instruments to victims, who believed they were acting as mystery shoppers. The victims unwittingly received the counterfeit commercial and Postal money orders and checks and cashed them to make small purchases for purposes of evaluating the commercial services provided. They then wire transferred excess funds back to Mason, Foote, and others. After these transactions, the money orders and checks were returned as counterfeit by the victims’ banks and they were left to repay the bank from their own funds.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 40 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul E. Hull is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The United States Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated July 14, 2015