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Elderly Manatee woman wires $19,000 to computer company offering bogus refund

Victim also bought $5,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards
Posted: 5:53 PM, Dec 14, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-14 22:53:37Z

BRADENTON, Fla. — An elderly Manatee County woman handed over $24,000 of her life savings.

The ABC Action News I-Team spoke to the woman who thinks you and your loved ones can learn from her mistake.           

“I was trying to do things on my own,” said Marilyn Sugalski, who used to use a computer and cell phone to manage her daily life.

She says those technologies allowed strangers to steal most of her life’s savings.

“I was just..was dumb and stupid and fell for it,” said Sugalski.

People claiming to work for a computer company called Sugalski and said they would pay her, if she first deposited money into an account.

“I said are you sure this is legal? And they said 'yes, this is legal. You're gonna get all your money back,'” she said.

They called, texted and emailed her up to 15 times a day.

“They just keep at you and at you and you get to the point where you just want it over with,” Sugalski said.

Following the scammer's instructions, Sugalski went to two branches of her own bank, Bank of the Ozarks, where she withdrew $19,000. She then took nearly 190 $100 bills to two branches of Wells Fargo Bank and had them deposited to an account number the scammers gave her.

“They didn't ask me what I was doing, what it was for, anything,” she said.

At their instruction, Sugalski also bought $5,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards and gave them the card and PIN numbers.

“So I called them and they say we want to hear you shred them up,” she said.  

“There was no sign of this the three days I was with her,” said Marilyn’s son Clark Sugalski.

We reached one of the scammers on a phone number with a Texas area code and he said he planned to give her a refund, but said he needed more of her personal information to do so.

He also admitted he was located outside of the United States.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and both banks are investigating. But Sugalski isn't holding out much hope.

“They're very good. Very good. That's why they can do it,” she said.

“If you’re an elderly man or woman, go to your kids. Talk to them before you do it. If you’re by yourself, tell the bank what you’re doing,” he said.

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If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com .