Prosecutors dropped all charges against a Canadian man implicated in a '419' advanced fraud fee racket this week, much to the annoyance of a Conneticut woman who helped police arrest him.
Nicholas Horvath-Howard, 24, was released without charge after both federal authorities and the State of Connecticut decided not to prosecute, following his arrest in a reverse-sting operation last week.
Horvath-Howard, flew to the US from Toronto in the expectation of collecting $200,000 from Heidi Evans, a Connecticut estate agent. Unknown to him, Evans had been stringing along a group of advanced fee fraudsters for months.
So instead of meeting a potential mark, Horvath-Howard was met instead by US Secret Service agents and members of the local police.
Horvath-Howard was subsequently charged with first-degree attempted larceny and held in custody pending the payment of a $250,000 bond.
But by the time the case went back to Danbury Superior Court on Monday (November 10), prosecutors had decided to abandon the case.
The decision has left Evans fuming.
"No wonder the scam proliferates – even when we catch them, no one will prosecute," Evans told El Reg.
Before Horvath-Howard travelled to the US to meet Evans, she received a cheque from the perpetrators of the fraud. She was instructed to pay in the cheque to her account and hand over a cash sum in return to Horvath-Howard. Of course these cheques are forgeries but by the time a victim finds this out from their bank the fraudsters are long gone.
Evans is ready to believe Horvath-Howard may "not have known much about the money... but I’m quite sure he at least knew who hired him – which would be the man who sent the check [cheque]."
"Ironically, if I had actually deposited the cheque I would be facing a multitude of charges right now. But creating and sending the cheques doesn’t seem to be a crime anymore."
"Unless money has been lost the authorities just don’t care. They don’t want to have to work to get a guilty verdict," she added.
US Attorney Kevin O’Connor declined to explain why the Horvath-Howard case was dropped but he assured local paper The News-Times of Danbury, Connecticut that the authorities were committed to clamping down on Internet fraud.
"People should not infer that we are not committed to doing these cases at all,” he said.
O’Connor is unaware of his office ever prosecuting someone for involvement in a "Nigerian 419" email fraud case. But he The News-Times that his office "aggressively goes after perpetrators of Internet identity theft". ®