Investigators have identified perpetrator behind bogus letter scam

By Gus Bode

U.S. Postal Inspection Department continuing to investigate how many letters were sent to students and parents

The U.S. Postal Inspection Department has identified the individual sending bogus letters to SIUC students and their parents asking for an $86 payment as part of a job employment assistance program.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Department, which took over the investigation earlier this week, does not want to release the name of the suspect at this time, and they do not have the individual in custody.

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The letter, which is not from SIUC and is not authorized by the University or Career Services, is from FMM Service Department and is signed by Neal T. O’Fallon, FMM director of review.

Jerry Post, U.S. postal inspector, said the name Neal T. O’Fallon is an alias for the perpetrator.

Post said they know the suspect’s location, which is not in the Carbondale area. At the present time, the U.S. Postal Inspection Department is continuing to investigate the letter.

Post said they are trying to find out how many individuals have received the letters, and the number of recipients appears to be small.

“The number of victims is pretty minimal at this point, as well as the dollar loss, thanks to the work of the SIU Police Department,” he said. “They got on it quick.”

Post said that by ascertaining the total number of victims, they can decide where the case will be prosecuted.

“It can go to the federal government to prosecute the case, if it [number of victims] makes the limit to prosecute a fraud case,” Post said. “One thing we haven’t been able to determine is what list he was using for the mailings.

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“It is possible he had gotten a hold of an old student directory.”

The recipients of the letters appear to have been selected randomly, including students, parents, recently graduated individuals and SIUC alumni.

Gonza Kaijage, a senior in journalism from a south suburb of Chicago, said her mother received a letter from the FMM Service Department a couple of days ago. The letter said “our records show that your son or daughter $86 payment is past due.”

Kaijage said she had been job searching online and her mother assumed she might have signed up for the service. Kaijage’s mother sent the payment earlier this week. But after Kaijage’s heard about the scam, her mother stopped the $86 payment Tuesday.

Stan Blank said he received a letter Friday addressed to the parents of Julie Blank, his wife.

Blank said his wife has worked in the Wayne City School district reading to first-grade students for several years. Although she recently received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from SIUC this summer, he said she has not applied for a job of any kind since she is currently employed.

He said the envelope to the letter was postmarked from Chicago and the last name was misspelled.

“There was no phone number to call or way to pay by check,” Blank said. “It all added up to say something wasn’t right.”

Blank originally was going to throw it away, but he sent a copy of the letter to the state attorney general’s office. The office sent back a complaint form to Blank, which he filled out and returned for the attorney general’s use.

“It made me mad, I thought people are so used to paying bills from SIUC, they may have thought, ‘What is another $25 or $86 bill; we have already sent thousands to the University.'”

Reporter Samantha Edmondson can be reached at [email protected]

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