In the first arrest in a nationwide crackdown on tsunami relief scams, the FBI took a Pittsburgh-area man into custody yesterday on charges of flooding the Internet with spam solicitations for a bogus relief fund so he could pay to fix his car, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Matthew Schmieder admitted to the FBI that he sent out 800,000 e-mails purporting to be from the Mercy Corps, an international group of humanitarian agencies. Schmieder apparently lifted images from the Mercy Corps Web site for spam messages to fool donors into sending him money through a PayPal account he established. He got $150 from one donor.
When agents arrested Schmieder, 24, at his apartment yesterday, he initially said he “thought it would be OK to keep the funds for his own use if he gave some of the contributions to charity,” wrote FBI Agent Marc Southland. “Subsequently, Schmieder stated that he intended to use the money to fix his car and to pay some bills because ‘everybody needs money.’ ”