A Jamaican man, as CNN reported this month, chose the wrong person to try to extort and threaten with bodily harm: Bill Webster of FBI and CIA fame.
The past director of both the FBI and CIA, Webster and his wife Lynda, who have a home in Rappahannock County, were first targeted four years ago by the Jamaican man peddling a lottery scam.
Finally, all these years later, justice has been served. Keniel Aeon Thomas, 29, was sentenced by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to almost six years in prison.
He had gone so far as to warn the Websters over multiple phone calls that he’d not only set their house on fire, but would arrange for a sniper to shoot them in the back of the head if they didn’t pay him tens of thousands of dollars.
“We are lucky that we have a few friends that could be helpful to us,” Lynda Webster told the judge, referring to both the FBI and CIA.
Bill received the first call, according to CNN, with Thomas identifying himself as “David Morgan,” the head of “Mega Millions.” He told Bill he’d won $15.5 million and a Mercedes-Benz, but that he would need to wire $50,000 to cover taxes before collecting the award.
The caller tried again the next day, and Webster, who by then was already in touch with the FBI, replied that he didn’t have the cash readily available.
About a month later, it was Lynda Webster who answered Thomas’ call, the scammer warning this time that he was watching the couple’s house. At which point, CNN reported, Lynda picked up her cell phone and dialed an FBI agent to listen in.
Thomas told her she needed to pay $6,000 or he’d put a bullet “straight to the head,” according to court documents. Lynda received two more calls, warning that Bill would also be killed.
The scammer, who was arrested in late 2017 as he stepped off a plane to visit a friend in New York, pleaded guilty to extortion. At this month’s sentencing, D.C. Judge Beryl Howell revealed that Thomas had compiled more than 30 victims, from which he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars.
CNN reported that before learning his sentence, Thomas turned to face the Websters, who were sitting in the courtroom.
“I really didn’t mean to hurt you guys,” the Jamaican said. “We love you guys. We love tourists.”
And yes, after all of this, Lynda says the Websters still receive scam calls. In recent weeks, both the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police have issued warnings to local and state residents about phone scammers being at it again, some going so far as to have their caller ID’s reflect the phone numbers of the sheriff’s office and state police.
“We have received information of citizens receiving calls from scammers representing themselves as the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Compton warned last month. “They are even disguising their telephone number for caller ID to reflect our number 540-675-5300.
“These scammers are claiming that the person has missed Jury duty and needs to pay a certain amount of money to them in gift cards. Do not fall for this. We do not collect payment for anything and will never ask for gift cards. Anyone with similar experiences is asked to contact the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office or your local law enforcement agency.”
Both the sheriff and state police have posted a list of tips to combat scams and be protected by knowing what’s true, what’s false, and what to do.
— John McCaslin