RENO, NV - Larry Turpen was looking for something to do. A way to earn some extra cash working from home.
Searching on line he got a lead from someone supposedly in London with an offer that sounded good.
"It involved repackaging packages and sending them on again and I thought I can do that,"
So, a couple of months ago Larry went to work, little knowing he'd become part of a criminal enterprise.
A few times a week items arrive at his Reno home. He's already been given instructions to repackage them, mark them as a "gift" and send them overseas, invariably to Russia.
The shipment sitting in his living room is fairly typical. High end smart phones and two Ipads.
Where they came from is unknown.
They didn't arrive packaged as you would expect from Apple or Motorola. They were sent by individuals poorly protected, rattling around in boxes.
His job is to repackage them much better, sometimes combining shipments, itemize them (usually underreporting on the shipping documens), mark them as gifts and send them on, always to Eastern Europe, usually to Russia.
Most are still in their shrink wrap although one Ipad appears to be used.
Turpen tracked down phone numbers for the individuals listed as the senders, but when we call those numbers don't appear to match the names.
In fact, there were four people listed under the same number from Sacramento to Connecticut to New York to Mississippi. That number by the way carried a Los Angeles area code.
U-S Postal Inspectors tell us it's a constant problem. These items were probably bought with stolen credit cards, but one way or the other we're all paying a price for this scam.
"It's quite possible the person that has that credit card might be charged back or they might be charged for that item," says Tim Johnston of the Better Business Bureau. "Or the bank might have to take a loss. If they take a loss they might up their fees to the business and the business might have to up its prices. So in a way you can say we all victims of this."
Turpen says he's been asking the company by email why a shipping coordinator is even needed.
"They say it's because some of these American companies won't ship to Eastern Europe."
That at least is true, postal inspectors tell us, because of the rampant credit card fraud
But it's also true we've learned that Apple, for instance, has a on line store in Russia, so there's really no reason at all the Sergey Federov, Turpen was supposed to send the items to couldn't order them himself legitimately.
There's no reason for this scheme except to rip off the victims of credit card fraud.