The $10 Million Email Scheme

In the US the scheme goes something like this. A complete stranger comes up to you with a winning scratch-off lottery ticket. His problem is that he's illegal in the country and can not cash the $100,000 prize. He likes you and needs cash urgently so he offers you the winning ticket for $500. You can pocket the $99,500 difference, or whatever is left after taxes.

In the Internet era, spouses of dead or deposed dictators saw that the only way they could keep their loot was by emailing complete strangers and asking them for help. In-boxes around the globe are flooded with emails from Suha Arafat, Leila Traboulsi, or some random Bokassa begging recipients to take millions of dollars off their backs.

One assumes that the scheme works or it wouldn't keep going.

Tony Sullivan is a Stratfor recruiter and one gullible victim of these type of schemes. In December 2004, Stratfor's talent scout spotted a gem. Someone who is privy to state secrets, yet alternates the use of capital letters with small ones in his name (doc-id 5368282). “Pay this guy well,” and let's move on to the next mission.

Now with the trust established and the stakes higher, Tony sees the need to use an alias. What good is spy work without an alias. The natural choice for a Tony Sullivan was “Hussein.” Here the informant, who is using the alias “Bilal” (doc-id 5315700), waves the $10 million lottery ticket in front of Tony.

Bilal has information on Ron Arad – an Israeli pilot shot down near Sidon in 1986 – that he's willing to share with Hussein because he likes Hussein, he's not “bargaining the company” he just wants to make sure they aren't getting stiffed (doc-id 5433095). Tony bites and promises Bilal “you will be delighted with your compensation” (doc-id 5331111).

After three weeks of back and forth emails, it turns out Bilal just wants a free ticket to the US. The only info he was willing to give out for free over email was that Ron Arad “has been killed.” At this stage, Bob Rushing, director of special operations, steps in and tells Bilal what amounts to a no soup for you (doc-id 5410254).

In the aftermath of Bilal, Tony, now no longer Hussein, seeks comforting from his boss. Between a “We make a good team” and a “We make a GREAT team,” Tony takes the cue from Bilal and asks for more money, but he too is shot down by Bob (doc-id 5488026).

Bob left Stratfor in June 2005 (doc-id 2726). Tony lingered for a while.

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