Oregon probation officer suspected in $250K fraud

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Omar Morales’ job as a probation officer is to help ensure that federal offenders released from prison in the Salem area do not commit further crimes, but the FBI says Morales was involved in a scheme to take more than $250,000 of suspected fraud proceeds.

“Common schemes include the payout from a large lottery winning after payment of required taxes and fees, or the promise of a lucrative government grant after payment of required processing fees,” wrote FBI Special Agent Timothy Suttles in court documents. “In reality, the victim is coerced into continually paying additional ‘fees’ in order to receive a promised large payout that is never made.”

Criminal charges have not been filed against Morales. On Friday, Suttles convinced a federal judge to seize $16,821.74 from Morales’ accounts at U.S. Bank, Umpqua Bank and Oregon State Credit Union, while the FBI and U.S. Attorney for Oregon investigate whether Morales was involved in money laundering and wire fraud.

The FBI agent interviewed Morales in his office in Salem where he works as a federal probation officer. Morales told the FBI agent the scheme started when he met a woman on a dating website and fell in love with her after daily communication.

“She told him that she had a job in Dubai and that living in Dubai was expensive,” wrote Suttles. “She asked for help financially, and Morales began sending her his own funds.”

“These scams often depend on individuals known as ‘money mules’ to succeed,” the FBI agent explained.

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The FBI said the woman asked Morales to open bank accounts and buy bitcoin to help her with her graphic design business. According to court papers, she told him that deposits would be made into Morales’ accounts from her business. After the deposits were made, she told him to withdraw the funds and buy bitcoin at bitcoin ATMs. After purchasing the bitcoin, he sent it to the bitcoin address she provided.

The investigation began in December 2019, when Suttles started looking at rapid movement of funds into and out of numerous financial accounts belonging to Omar Morales. Suttles told the judge that Morales opened new accounts and continued moving money, even after one of the banks closed his account due to suspicious activity.

The Special Agent interviewed 4 people who sent money to Morales, but none of them believed they actually talked to or met Morales. The alleged victims told Suttles they were initially contacted via email or Facebook Messenger by a person they did not know and the conversations then transitioned to text messages.

“They were promised a large sum of money and told to pay a fee or tax in order to receive the promised sum,” wrote Suttles.

The Special Agent detailed the case of one victim who lived in California. She thought she was applying for a government grant. She was told she had to pay for taxes and administrative fees. She sent approximately $20,000 to various people, including Morales, in an attempt to obtain a fictitious government grant, but never received money in return.

The investigation revealed Morales would typically withdraw the amount of deposits within a day or two.

The FBI said Morales received $54,868.55 into his account at Oregon State Credit Union and withdrew $51,270 in cash from that account.

Bank of America records show 23 wire transfer deposits totaling approximately $115,666. The FBI says following the deposits, Morales withdrew approximately $117,910 in cash.

At Columbia Bank, the agent said Morales received deposits totaling $20,990, and he withdrew $20,950 in cash.

The investigation has determined that Morales has withdrawn over $256,751.60 of suspected fraud proceeds.

“Because the funds were withdrawn in cash, it is not possible at this point to determine what Morales did with the money.”

KOIN has been unable to reach Morales for comment.

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