ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — A Blount County woman’s savings account has been drained by a scammer. It was a con game that happened last month and it caught the victim totally off guard.
A fake check for nearly a million dollars was used as the bait and the victim didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. Ella Gibbs takes care of her 86-year-old mother, Mary, who had a stroke a few years ago. Gibbs, a former district manager for a ladies retail store, is retired.
On Dec. 10, Gibbs said she was sitting on a bench at the mall in Maryville when a young woman sat next to her.
“This lady approached and sit down on the bench aside me. She started talking and said, ‘you look familiar,'” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said she didn’t recognize the lady. The woman identified herself as Kimberly Headley and claimed she once worked for Gibbs. Gibbs said she didn’t recognize the name.
“I had five stores, I had traveled and I had hundreds of employees over the 20 years that I worked,” Gibbs said. “She told me that she made jewelry and sold jewelry and she was planning a trip to Thailand.”
Gibbs and Headley exchanged text messages for several days before she was off to Thailand. She was even sent pictures of Headley. The young woman claimed the jewelry she is seen wearing are examples of what she would she buy in Thailand, the gem capital of the world.
Once trust was established, Gibbs received a priority mail envelope Dec. 20 with a check for $960,000, nearly a million dollars, inside. It was made out to Kimberly Headley. She asked Gibbs to hold it for her until she returned to Knoxville.
Gibbs said Headley kept texting her, sending pictures of the gems she had bought. Then came the ask.
“She called, or texted me, and said she was in a layover in Russia trying to get home, Gibbs said. “She was due on the 28th after Christmas. At that point, she … said that customs said she owed money. It was a sizeable amount, (and she asked) could I wire her some money and she would pay me back out of a check was holding for her.”
Gibbs said she send ended up sending her every dime in the savings to account she and her mother had. The bait to the con was the check sent to Gibbs, who had no idea it was fake.
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“And I was assuming with this large check that I thought was good,” Gibbs said. “She said, ‘please, please, I’ll give you the money back as soon as I endorse the check.’ And I believed her. I just trusted her. She seemed emotional like she was being truthful about it. I felt sorry for her, you know.”
Gibbs filed a police report with Alcoa Police. The department says it investigation is continuing. Until just a few days ago, Gibbs says Headley continued to send text messages asking for more money.
“Be very careful,” Gibbs said. “You hear that a lot; I never in my life though that it would happen to me.”
Once the rapport was established between this person calling herself Kimberly Headley, Gibbs was hooked. However, since the new year, Gibbs says there’s been no contact with Headley. Alcoa Police say it’s the first time they’ve ever investigated a scammer meeting face to face with someone.