Balmer honored for winkling out bad telemarketers
Blaine police officer Doug Balmer has drawn international
acclaim for his skills helping nail fraudulent telemarketers
who prey on the elderly.
At an August 20 ceremony at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, B.C.
Balmer was given an award for excellent police work. Special Agent Nora Collas from the Los Angeles FBI office and Ramon Garcia of the FBI special legate office in Vancouver joined members of the RCMP commerical crimes section to present Balmer with the award from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.
From 1998 to 2001, Balmer helped U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies crack down on dozens of criminals who use the border to insulate themselves from prosecution as they steal millions of dollars from their victims, many of whom are elderly. The task force, known in Canada as Project Emptor, has indicted and arrested major scam operators, and has seized over 30 million dollars worth of assets, said Blaine deputy police chief Mike Haslip. These assets are sold and the proceeds returned to the crime victims as partial compensation for their losses.
Balmer personally arrested two ring leaders who crossed the border from Canada into Blaine to launder money. Wilson Okike, 29, of Surrey B.C. is now serving a 7-year sentence for his part in a high volume scam. His partner Basil Steeves, 33, also from Surrey, will spend 2 1/2 years in prison in the U.S. after both pleaded guilty to telemarketing fraud against the elderly. Haslip said the task force estimates the two stole over three million dollars from 1,400 victims. The RCMP was able to recover 1.7 million dollars.
Elderly victims often suffer a devastating loss of self confidence when they realize they have been conned. In at least two cases victims in the crimes Balmer helped investigate committed suicide after realizing that they had lost their life savings. Police occasionally receive calls from local victims who have lost money to criminals via the phone or by email.Several fraudulent companies in the BC lower mainland use mail drops in Whatcom County.
Con artists find US victims more willing to send their money to a US address, and until now they were able to take their stolen money back to BC and hide behind the invisible wall that the border created for law enforcement. Haslip said. The task force created portals for law enforcement officials like Officer Balmer to cooperate and put these con artists behind prison walls instead.
Blaine Police and other area law enforcement agencies have more information available to help protect people from telemarketing crime.The ground rules still apply; if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is, Haslip said.