Thursday, May 10, 2012
7 News Features: Lebron to the Rescue
His class was going on a trip to study architecture. To raise the money, he sold a prized pair of Lebron James sneakers, and then got ripped off by an Internet scammer. That story aired, and then things happened, ending with one of the most famous athletes in the world coming to the rescue. Here is Patrick Fraser with the story.
WSVN -- When you open a business, you go after customers.
Frank Esposito opened a company called Scammer Guard to go after crooks.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "People that have been scammed, defrauded, misled in all sorts of different type of situations."
A few weeks ago, he was watching Help Me Howard, specifically our story about Keven Rodriguez, who collects sneakers.
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "When Lebron James came to the Miami Heat, he came out with the shoe."
Keven is studying architecture and wanted to go with his college class on a trip to Europe, so he sold his prized pair of Lebron sneakers on Craigslist through PayPal for $700 to a man who called himself "Freddie Bonilla."
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "I feel like I just got scammed. That would have put me really close to the trip, but now it looks like it's not going to happen."
The crook kept the shoes and never paid Keven.
In Internet scams, it's extremely difficult to catch the crooks.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "If it's between a 21-year-old kid out-thinking me, that day is not going to happen."
Two hours after watching our story, Frank had tracked down the alleged crook, not as Freddie Bonilla. His real name: Laquan Jordan.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "Turns out that this kid has a bad past, has a problem."
We went with Frank to Deltona, Florida, where the sneakers had been shipped.
No one answered. Frank and his private investigator then went next door. Sometimes it's good to be lucky.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "And they signed for, were those shoes."
Dion, Laquan's Uncle: Oh, wow."
Laquan's uncle owned the house and was letting Laquan stay there till he got his life back in order.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "So he sells high-line sneakers?"
Dion, Laquan's Uncle: "Yeah, on the Internet."
Dion says Laquan wore out his welcome and left, taking several boxes of new sneakers, including Keven's Lebron sneakers.
Dion, Laquan's Uncle: "These cats came to my house with video and everything, bro."
Dion called Laquan's father in Chicago.
Dion, Laquan's Uncle: "Let me tell you what's going on. Quan scammed somebody out of some sneakers."
Frank told Laquan's father he would not report Laquan to the police, if...
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "We either want the money returned, or the exact sneakers turned back."
The father gave Frank Laquan's number, and relayed the advice he gave Laquan when he got in trouble before.
Laquan's Father: "He is gonna have to learn the hard way. I told him that."
Over the next few days, Frank exchanged texts with Laquan, who promised to return the Lebron sneakers, including a text complaining that Keven had not provided extra laces with the shoes that Laquan is accused of stealing.
Frank Esposito, Scammer Guard: "He said, 'Yeah, they're size 10.5. The kid never gave him extra laces.'"
Not surprisingly, Laquan never returned the sneakers.
Frank and Keven then filed a police report.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Department, which covers Deltona, has opened an investigation and is looking for Laquan Jordan.
Patrick Fraser: "Keven's sneakers are gone, his $700 stolen, and the trip to study architecture with his class missed. And then, the Miami Heat and Lebron James got involved."
After our story about Keven being ripped off aired, a Miami Heat spokesman told us the "Heat contacted Nike for these sneakers, and Lebron James happily signed them."
We then asked Keven to come check out some videotape. When he brought his family to 7 News, they had no idea what was in the box.
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "Oh my goodness! This is unbelievable."
Keven is a sneaker collector. To get a pair of Lebron's newest shoes, both signed by one of the biggest athletic stars in the world, will leave a collector speechless.
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "Oh my goodness, I'm shaking right now. This is unbelievable. Thank you guys."
A crook ripped Keven off and blocked him from going on a college trip.
A fellow who goes after scammers and a superstar basketball player cared enough to then get him autographed sneakers that are priceless to him.
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "Thank you so much, that I can't believe that he heard. Thank him a lot. I don't know what I would say to him in person."
Sadly, the Internet crooks usually win.
Keven Rodriguez, Internet Scam Victim: "Thank you so much."
But fortunately, not this time.