Local News Headlines: February 15, 2024

Indiana University Fraternity suspended
Indiana University has suspended Gamma Tau – Indiana University, the local chapter of Tau Epsilon Phi. The ‘Cease and Desist’ order comes after the chapter was accused of hazing. The measure issued against the IU Fraternity is interim, being placed against “certain aspects of chapter operations when there is an immediate threat or ongoing investigation.”

According to the fraternity website:

Founded in 2017 by Joshua Frieser, the Gamma Tau chapter of Tau Epsilon Phi has enjoyed much success over its first few years at Indiana University. Through hard work and dedication, this group of men has accomplished great things, including growing from 13 members in the fall of 2018 to over 40 just a year later, throwing a charity concert that raised over $11,000 for the Save a Child’s Heart foundation and even becoming chartered in November 2019, one of the fastest chapters to do so in TEP’s history.

Carmel man sentenced to more than 8 years in Federal Prison for $2 million international identity theft scheme
Tuong Quoc Ho, a/k/a Robert Parker, 36, a resident of Carmel, Indiana, has been sentenced to 102 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to twenty counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of possession of multiple unauthorized access devices, one count of unlawful possession of identification, and two counts of money laundering.

According to court documents, beginning in 2013 and lasting through February of 2020, Ho devised and led a complex, international scheme to defraud multiple victims throughout the United States and abroad of approximately $2 million.

To carry out the scheme, Ho and his co-conspirators unlawfully obtained personally identifiable information (“PII”) including names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, social security numbers, and credit card numbers of hundreds of victims throughout the United States and worldwide. They used that PII to create fraudulent PayPal and eBay accounts in the victims’ names. Ho then placed expensive items, such as Vera Bradley handbags, American Girl dolls, PlayStations, and blood pressure monitoring devices for sale on eBay. Ho did not have the majority, if any, of the items on hand at the time of the sale, but instead purchased the items after they were sold through online retailers using stolen credit card information that he unlawfully obtained, and had those items directly shipped from the retailer to the buyer. Ho and his co-conspirators sold many of the items at prices lower than market value, but still profited off those items because they were purchased with stolen credit cards.

Ho linked his personal bank information to the fake PayPal and eBay accounts and collected the money. Ho’s personal bank accounts were linked to over 500 hundred fraudulent PayPal accounts. When PayPal suspected suspicious activity on the account, it restricted the accounts and required additional documentation to re-establish access. Ho modified and used PII of identity theft victims to create fraudulent driver’s licenses, passports, utility bills, and bank statements to make them appear to belong to the account holder.

In total, Ho stole over $2 million and wired $1.2 million to family and other individuals in Vietnam. Ho also laundered the money, using over $300,000 to purchase his home in Carmel, Indiana.

On October 24, 2018, Carmel Police Department officers executed search warrants at Ho’s residence and other buildings owned by Ho and arrested him on state charges. CPD recovered over 400 packages of merchandise addressed to Ho’s alias, “Robert Parker.” At least $78,000 worth of that merchandise was purchased with stolen credit cards. Ho continued to operate his scheme after his home was searched by law enforcement until his arrest by federal authorities in 2020.

Emergency Food and Shelter grants available through the United Way
$68,522 in Emergency Food and Shelter Program Funding coming to our region! Monroe, Greene, and Owen counties agencies can apply to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) Local Board for funding. Greene County’s funding is $11,427; Monroe County’s funding is $49,686; and Owen County’s funding is $7,409. Funds will be distributed to local agencies that have served those at risk for hunger and homelessness through food programs, shelters, and assistance with rent, mortgage, and utility costs. These federal funds were appropriated by Congress and are made available through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency. Visit https://loom.ly/sBeE_ag to learn more about guidelines and how to apply.

Attorney General Todd Rokita warns Hoosiers to be aware of romance scams this Valentine’s Day 
Indiana’s Attorney General warns Indiana consumers to be on the lookout for romance scams approaching the holiday season. 

“While online dating may seem like an easy way to find love, it doesn’t always end well,” Attorney General Rokita said. “We see cases of goodhearted people who truly believe they’re connecting with a genuine person and then get taken advantage of by scammers. Don’t let this happen to you or your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.” 

In romance scams, perpetrators prey on unsuspecting matches by creating fake profiles to take advantage of victims online. They go to great lengths to pose as prospective romantic partners with similar interests to lure people into providing gifts, money, or personal information. 

Here are a few warning signs that someone might be more interested in your money or personal information than a relationship: 

  • Your new romantic interest sends a picture that doesn’t look realistic. Rather, the person looks more like a model from a fashion magazine.
  • The relationship is moving fast, and the other person quickly professes their love for you.
  • The person attempts to isolate you from friends and family.
  • The person requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used against you.
  • The person can’t meet you in person or communicate on facetime.
  • The person asks you for money to buy their ticket to visit you, help pay for medical expenses (for them or a family member) or invest in a business.
  • They ask for money in the form of wire transfer, preloaded gift card, cryptocurrency, or money transfer app that are hard to recoup.

If you ever suspect a scam of any type, file a complaint at indianaconsumer.com 

This Week in Hoosier History

Abe Lincoln

1861 – Abraham Lincoln woke up on February 12, his 52nd birthday, at the Bates House Hotel in Indianapolis. He had breakfast with Governor Oliver P. Morton before boarding a train to continue his trip to Washington where he would take the oath to become the 16th President.  

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