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FBI warns about con artists after discovery of ‘black money’

  • COURTESY: FBI
    This FBI photo shows two suitcases recovered from a Honolulu storage locker filled with black construction paper cut to the size of U.S. currency.
  • COURTESY: FBI
    The Honolulu FBI office released this security camera photo of two men suspected of running what agents call a "black money" fraud.
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A bomb scare last week at a downtown storage locker is renewing FBI efforts to warn residents about a fraud targeting Hawaii residents commonly known as the "black money scam."

The FBI spokesman said the agency received a tip on Friday that two suspicious men had rented a Honolulu storage locker for cash for storing two large suitcases. Two men claiming to be from the African nation of Liberia are wanted for questioning in connection with the possible fraud scheme.

The FBI contacted the Honolulu police and fire departments, which checked the locker and determined that there were no explosives or dangerous materials inside.

On Saturday, the FBI obtained a search warrant to open the bags. 

The FBI obtained a search warrant to open the suitcases, which were filled with 120 pounds of black construction paper cut into the size of money. There was also Vitamin C, iodine, empty glass vials and a hairdryer, Simon said.

Those are the materials associated with a known scam that involves con artists asking victims for money to purchase a chemical that can remove black dye from U.S. currency smuggled out of Africa, which is actually black paper, Simon said. A mixture of Vitamin C and water is used to remove glue and iodine covering a single authentic $100 bill in an attempt to fool victims, he said.

“We’re unsure if the suspects’ intentions were to solicit and scam money from APEC attendees,” Simon said.

The FBI received a tip about four months ago that there were people on Oahu attempting the scam. 

“We don’t know of any victims who have lost money,” Simon said. “We interested in hearing from any Hawaii residents who may have fallen for this scam.”

The FBI is also looking to question the suspects, whose images were captured on the storage facility’s surveillance footage. 

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