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Press Release

Milford Resident Charged In “Arrest Warrant” Scam After Co-Conspirator Unwittingly Texts Federal Agent

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Public Urged to Beware of Rampant Financial Fraud Schemes

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Milford, Michigan resident Kari Melissa Morales, 51, was charged by a federal grand jury with participating in a fraud scheme that attempted to obtain $60,000 from a west Michigan resident in exchange for avoiding arrest and prosecution on a fake “FBI Warrant of Arrest” for a false allegation of “IRS tax fraud.”

          “Financial fraud is rampant,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Fraudsters comes at us through our devices, in the mail, and at our doors. And they target some of our most vulnerable, especially senior citizens.”  He continued: “Safety starts with awareness. Federal agencies like the IRS and FBI will never send anyone texts, emails, or other messages requesting or demanding money to dismiss an arrest warrant or criminal charges.”

          Morales was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. According to the indictment, in early April 2024, Morales drove to Grand Rapids to exchange a fake “IRS receipt” and fake “FBI WARRANT OF ARREST” for $60,000 in cash she was to obtain for a co-conspirator. Morales obtained the fake documents from a co-conspirator she met online and never met in person, who instructed Morales to print the documents and exchange them for cash she was to receive from the female named in the documents. Morales was told she could keep $2,500 of the cash. During the attempted exchange, Morales carried a loaded firearm in a holster in her waistband and brought a gold police badge that was issued to another person by a municipality in the State of Michigan. The investigation of the scheme began when a co-conspirator posing as the “IRS fraud department” sent a text message to a cell phone number that previously was assigned to a female resident of Kent County. The co-conspirator did not know that the targeted victim’s cell phone number had been reassigned to a federal law enforcement agent in Kent County, Michigan.

          “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to safeguarding all Americans from individuals who exploit innocent people through fraudulent and deceptive schemes,” said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins of the Detroit Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Today's indictment should send a clear message to anyone contemplating engaging in similar scams that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our law enforcement partners, is committed to holding these offenders accountable and ensuring they are brought to justice.”

          The Justice Department, FBI, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service recently announced the completion of “The Money Mule Initiative,” a national campaign to identify, disrupt, and criminally prosecute complex fraud schemes. These schemes often rely on “money mules” – people who receive fraudulent proceeds, retain a portion, and forward the remainder to a co-conspirator – to facilitate schemes that often originate overseas. Many “advance fee” fraud schemes target older Americans and use various false stories designed to manipulate victims to mail, wire, or hand money to “money mules” located in the United States.

          This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Michigan State Police. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Chris O’Connor.

          An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

          For more information on preventing elder fraud and help for victims, visit the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative website, which includes a list of Michigan-specific resources. The FBI Elder Fraud website also provides several resources, including the following tips to help seniors protect themselves:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, text messages, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

          If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available. The Federal Trade Commission also provides a hotline at 877-FTC-HELP and a website at to receive consumer complaints.


Updated May 14, 2024

Financial Fraud