North Aurora resident swindled out of $230,000 for crimes she didn’t commit

CHICAGO (CBS) — An elderly citizen of North Aurora is accused of money laundering and drug trafficking, but this is not true.

To clear her name, she had to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new account opened for her.

You know where this is going.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory tells us about a complicated and expensive scam.

Henrietta Schmul makes a manly face to her grandchildren, cooing, laughing and playing with them. Inside she is a bunch of emotions.

“I was so afraid. I was so afraid. And she lied,” said Shmul, who described herself as a good Christian.

For almost two months, the 74-year-old man disappeared for several hours. Her family thought she was sick and kept it a secret so they could go for treatment. Instead, Shmul visited various bitcoin machines to convert some of her savings into digital currency.

She showed us massive payouts from her retirement accounts. $150,000 gentlemen. There is 30,000 dollars. It all started with an urgent phone call in May.

“I want to inform you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.” What?! I never did anything,” Shmul said, summarizing the first phone call with the man she recognized as “Andrew Hall.”

Hall said he worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He gave her the badge number and the case number with the warrant, telling Shmul to call the police if she didn’t believe him. But if she calls, “I’d better take my lawyer with me because I’m going to be arrested.”

The fake federal agent continued to communicate by phone, through the Telegram app, and by text messages. He told the pensioner that she needed a new social security number because she was the victim of identity theft.

“Before we change your social security number, we’ll have to move your money out of your accounts to protect you,” Schmul said, explaining more of Hall’s excuses.

When she could no longer convert her money into bitcoin, Hall convinced her to use her credit cards to buy gift cards. Rationale there? That with a new social security number, she might have difficulty opening credit cards due to her lack of credit history. So, she should hit her credit limit now and pay her back later.

Shmul ended up spending over $17,000 on gift cards. Every time she protested, Hall had an answer.

“I am saving you. I’m helping you,” she said. Hall told her. She thought he was her friend.

Then her boyfriend didn’t answer one day. His phone says he’s offline.

Investigators from the North Aurora Police Department reviewed all this information and then brought in the FBI. Cybersecurity experts have traced the scammers to Malta, an island in the Mediterranean, thousands of miles from Shmul, whose family is stunned. They started GoFundMe to help her recover her savings.

“I know how hard she has worked all her life, and seeing that money completely disappear breaks my heart,” Janelle Hutchison, Shmul’s sister-in-law, said.

Grandma hopes her $230,000+ mistake will be a warning to all generations, so she wanted to share her story.

Social Security Administration says that callers threatening that you will be arrested or that you will lose your social security number are scammers. Hang up if you receive a suspicious call. Here are some more tips: