56ºF

Wire fraud scheme cost victim thousands

Scammer fled country with $50,000 investment, plus millions more

NEW YORK – It seemed like a no-lose investment -- big returns in a short period of time. But victims lost millions, money they could have held on to if they had done one simple thing.

"I think it was the allure of quick money," said fraud victim Jack Thomas. "The greed factor, it short-circuits some of your defenses."

Thomas admitted he should have done his homework before investing in foreign currency, but the deal seemed too good to pass up. 

Other family members were already involved with Alex Efrosman and were boasting about making a lot of money.

"They were telling everyone in the family, 'This is a good deal,'" Thomas said. "In six months, he got 10-15 percent of his initial investment back in his account with his name on it."

Thomas and his relatives thought they were making money based on fake statements Efrosman supplied.

"I wanted to invest for my grandchildren's education," Thomas said.

Days after Thomas wired his money, Efrosman fled the country with Thomas' $50,000 investment, as well as $7 million from more than 150 other victims.

"You're stunned in the beginning, and then then when you start to think this money is never coming back and this guy is never coming back and he just took off with it," Thomas said.

Postal inspectors said Efrosman was a seasoned veteran in the scam business.

"He had no remorse, because he did it not once but twice," Postal Inspector Michael DelGiudice said. "He did the same scam again."

Efrosman was indicted on fraud charges years before the scam.

"Efrosman was a highly intelligent person," DelGiudice said. "Instead of using his intelligence to benefit people, he used it to scam people."

The money mostly went to Efrosman's personal use.

"He had expensive habits," DelGiudice said. "He had a drug problem, so he was using it for drugs. He bought expensive cars. He had a Porsche. He would do work on his apartment."

Postal inspectors said always check out a potential investment online. In fact, a simple Internet search would have turned up Efrosman's previous record.

"I'm very skeptical of anything now," Thomas said. "I don't jump into anything anymore. I learned my lesson, hopefully."

Efrosman was eventually extradited from Poland, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4 million in restitution.