A scam operator’s been banned from the state and fined after the operator of a mailbox store in the western Des Moines suburb of Clive helped officials uncover his plan. Bob Brammer, spokesman in the Iowa Attorney General’s office, says it began with a phony mailing that promised improbable winnings to elderly target victims.Things like “You’ve got a 99-percent chance of winning a million dollars, just send a 20-dollar processing fee,” the kind of offer most would throw out but anyone who sent the money identified themselves to this “con artist” as a good prospect to be on a “hot list.” That list of easy targets then would be sold to perpetrators of other scams, the consumer-protection office alleges. Last December investigators seized 12-thousand pieces of mail coming through the rented mailbox in Clive. Identified as Richard Panas, he runs a huge “list broker” operation. Brammer explains the main product he sells is the names of people who’ve shown they’re likely to cooperate with promoters of scams. The mailbox was raided and the money sent in by thousands of scam victims was returned to them. The judge ordered him to stop any business in Iowa, and possibly most important, to remove the name Iowa from any material he uses or lists he sells. The man’s also been ordered to pay the state 75-thousand dollars.
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