MIA Marine's Name Used in Email Scam

January 30, 2009
*************|by Bryant Jordan

The latest version of a longtime Internet scam has taken a serious turn to the distasteful.

For at least 10 years pretty much anyone with an email address has been subjected to desperate pleas from some official -- usually claiming to be from an African nation -- trying to move millions of dollars out of the country but in need of "a partner" to make it happen. And the recipient of the email is asked to be the trusted partner to make it possible by supplying bank account information -- for which, in return, the recipient gets a significant share of the money.

But an email now circulating claims to be from Marine Capt. John W. Consolvo, who is trying to get to get more than $12.5 million once belonging to Saddam Hussein out of Iraq and into the U.S. or some other "safe country" until such time as he has completes his military service and can collect it. Consolvo, who says he is with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, offers a "mutually benefiting relationship" to whoever helps him get the money out of Iraq.

Problem is, Capt. John W. Consolvo was a pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212, 1st Brigade, MAG 24, and he has been missing in action since his F-4 was shot down over Vietnam on May 7, 1972.

The use of the Marine aviator's name in the scheme has obviously shocked his mother, Martha Ann Consolvo of Virginia Beach, Va.

"I'm very angry," she said. "It's very disturbing to me that someone would use my son's name in a derogatory way. My son's a hero. Whoever is doing this should be prosecuted. It's fraud."

The return address of the scam email -- uow.edu.au -- appears to have come off the email server of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. Emails and voice mails to the university's media affairs office by ************* were not returned.

According to the email the money, in various currencies, was hidden "with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of Saddam Hussein's old Presidential palaces during a rescue operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us. This might appear as an illegal thing to do but I tell you what: No compensation can make up for the risks we have taken with our lives in this hell hole."

The writer claims to already have survived two suicide bomb attacks, and now wants someone trustworthy to take custody of his share of the money until he gets out -- asking them to contact him at Capt-Jack1@live.com.

"If it might be of interest to you then Endeavour (sic) to contact me and we would work out the necessary formalities," he writes, "but I pray that you are discreet about this mutually benefiting relationship."

Snopes.com, a Web site that collects, analyzes and archives urban legends and Internet lore, refers to the scheme as the "Nigerian Scam." The heart of the scam is that "a wealthy foreigner who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland promises a hefty percentage of this fortune as a reward for assisting him."

The Saddam money version being circulated with Consolvo's name seems to play more on the reader's patriotism, expecting someone might help out because of the dangers the leathernecks have taken in Iraq, though it also points out the deal with be mutually beneficial -- suggesting a cut of the loot that, presumably, would be discussed if contact is made.

At the Marine Corps' Pentagon press desk Thursday, a spokeswoman said it's not the first time she has heard of a U.S. service member's name being used in such scams, but the military cannot do anything about it.

"It's unfortunate that people are doing this and using other people's identities in this way," said Capt. Amy Malugani said. "We are aware of it and it's unfortunate."