Foreign woman jailed in Aspen for alleged ties to Internet scam
ASPEN – A foreign woman is in custody for allegedly participating in an Internet scam, using an Aspen bank as her hub to fleece at least one Internet customer who paid $2,800 for an RV trailer he did not receive.
Police say Elvira Gumerova, of Kazakhstan, collected thousands of dollars in wire transfers at US Bank in Aspen under the name of “Sarah Cohen.” Her actual identity was revealed after she was booked in Pitkin County Jail, where she’s currently in custody on $12,750 bond, set Wednesday by District Judge Gail Nichols.
Authorities also placed an Immigrations and Customs hold on Gumerova, meaning if she posts bail she still can’t be released from jail and instead would be turned over to immigration authorities.
Gumerova was advised Wednesday that she faces separate felony charges of theft and criminal impersonation, in addition to a misdemeanor count of bait advertising.
Aspen police arrested her Tuesday at US Bank, after telling employees there to call them when Gumerova was seen again at the Main Street business. Bank officials said Gumerova, using the phony “Sarah Cohen” alias, had collected at least seven Western Union money transfers, averaging about $2,500, over the last several days.
Police were tipped off about the alleged scam on March 18, when a Wisconsin man spoke with Officer Kirk Wheatley to report that he had been defrauded of $2,800. The complainant told police he saw a 2004 Dutchman Classic RV trailer for sale on Craigslist, then e-mailed whom he believed was the owner to arrange a purchase.
The purported owner then directed the buyer to an eBay Motors web page and told him to follow the directions there, according to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Aspen Police investigator Ian MacAyeal.
The alleged victim then followed the website’s payment instructors, which told him to wire the funds to a Western Union office in Aspen. That’s what he did March 11, but a week later he had not heard from the seller and had not received the RV, MacAyeal’s affidavit says.
Wheatley, after speaking to the alleged victim, then visited the web page himself, finding the same information and pricing that the Wisconsin man had described. Wheatley’s probe led him to US Bank, where officials told him about the recent rash of wire transfers sent to the “Cohen” name.
When Wheatley arrested Gumerova at US Bank, she presented him with the same “Sarah Cohen” New Jersey driver’s license she had used to collect the wire transfers, the affidavit says. When the license was run through dispatch it yielded no positive identification. It was not until she was booked into the jail that Gumerova allegedly revealed her actual identity to a deputy, which was proven after a check with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Prosecutor Arnold Mordkin said that based on the number of transfers Gumerova allegedly received, there are likely other victims.
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In the 2022 iteration of the statewide Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado survey, 19 educators from Aspen public schools reported that they were considering leaving the field of education altogether at the end of this school year. That accounts for almost 13% of the Aspen School District staff members who completed the survey this year.