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Fake Stimulus Checks Lure Floridians to Arrest

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By Caleb Groos on September 01, 2009 2:37 PM

We've seen all sorts of scams pop up, masquerading as free benefit programs only to lure in unsuspecting victims. Police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida used the same tactic to lure in and arrest unsuspecting people with outstanding warrants.

If this was being pitched as a reality show, it would be Cops meets Candid Camera. As reported by Reuters, Fort Lauderdale police arrested 76 people lured in by the promise of a stimulus check.

As part of "Operation Show Me the Money," they sent out letters from a fictitious group named the "South Florida Stimulus Coalition" instructing the recipient to call a phone number and set up an appointment to pick up their money.

According to the Florida Sun Sentinel, 100 people made appointments, 82 showed up and 76 were arrested. Those who showed up met an elaborate facade created by the police, complete with "South Florida Stimulus Coalition" banners, fliers and business cards bearing the group's supposed slogan, "Helping jump-start our economy."

After going into the auditorium and presenting identification, the would-be stimulus recipients were escorted to another room where uniformed police placed them under arrest.

Those arrested had outstanding warrants for crimes ranging from petty theft to second degree murder. Police say they used the fake stimulus tactic to manage the arrests in a more controlled environment than is possible when serving a warrant at someone's home.

Not everyone was amused. One 21 year old arrived late to his appointment and walked in just after the press conference about the sting had ended. He wasn't arrested because his warrant had been dropped. His letter supposedly promised him $653. He told the Sun Sentinel, "I'm surprised they did this, and really, I feel humiliated.... I knew it was something shady, but I've got kids to feed, I needed the money."

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