Austin man may be victim in fraud scheme

Published 10:32 am Monday, January 11, 2010

An Austin man could be a victim in an Internet fraud scheme that involves up to 20 separate cases.

The 45-year-old man paid $13,500 for a sport-utility vehicle in November, using the online auction site eBay as a mediator for a wire transfer to a California bank.

The man has heard nothing since and has not received the 2007 GMC Yukon he wanted to buy. On Wednesday, Mower County prosecutors filed a criminal complaint with an arrest warrant for Rafael Berger, 22, of Sacramento, Calif.

Investigators believe the Austin man’s wire transfer was one of five that went into Berger’s account between Nov. 20 and Nov. 25. In all, $58,200 was wired to the California man.

However, by the time Bank of America was notified Dec. 4 of Berger’s fraudulent activity and froze his account, only about $12,944 remained in it, according to the complaint.

Berger faces a single felony count of theft and is summoned to appear in Mower County court on Feb. 4.

He allegedly opened the account Nov. 13 using a Dutch passport and ID, both of which were later determined to be fraudulent.

The investigator also said the Austin man’s case is one of about 20 currently under investigation.