2 arrested in $80K scam of Ocala woman

OCALA, Fla. — An Ocala woman is out $80,000 after falling victim to a scam, but not before making sure two men were put in jail, police said.


Official records show scammers contacted the woman through a pop-up on her iPad, advising that the device was compromised and providing a phone number.

When she called, she was told her bank account had registered a $30,000 transaction for child pornography in China, and a $30,000 payment made within 72 hours would fix the problem.

The scammers claimed to be with Wells Fargo, the Department of Treasury and the Federal Communications Commission.

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Police said the woman was instructed to go to a gas station to transfer the money via BitCoin. The next day, they called her again and told her to transfer another $50,000 in cash in a paper sack to what she described was a middle eastern man with a goatee. He told her someone would be in touch the next day.

Police said the scammers attempted to get another $50,000 from the woman that following day, but this time, officers were waiting. They arrested Jayarami R. Kuruguntla, 25, and Parth R. Patel, 33 on fraud charges.

When questioned, both men denied knowing about the scam. Kuruguntla claimed Patel promised him $200 to drive from Tampa to Ocala for a meal. Patel said he wanted to get a meal at Citrus Springs and drink a few beers.

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When further questioned, Patel caved and told officers he was supposed to pick up a package, but denied knowing its contents. He showed officers a WhatsApp thread from a person in India providing step-by-step instructions.

Patel renewed his denials when WFTV approached him as he left police headquarters Thursday.

“I don’t know any women,” he said. “I didn’t ask for no money. I’m not like a money-laundering guy.”

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A spokesman for the department reminded citizens to take a step back if anyone calls and suspiciously asks for money, financial information or personal information in a short period of time.

“If anything comes over the phone that sounds suspicious and you need to make a money transfer quickly, there’s a good chance that there’s a scam involved,” Jeff Walczak said. “Don’t be afraid to hang up.”

Walczak said the elderly were common targets, but younger people had been targeted at work as well.

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He said no agency, to his knowledge, has ever asked for BitCoin.

“We’re just asking everybody to be vigilant,” he said.

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The victim told WFTV she hopes both men will go to prison for lengthy periods of time, but didn’t want to speak further about the case.

Walczak said officers hadn’t yet recovered any of her money.

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