Postal inspectors on Tuesday began doling out the first payments to Southern California scam victims as part of a $100-million deferred prosecution deal with the money transfer company MoneyGram.
"This is the largest administrative forfeiture in the 200-plus-year history of the Inspection Service," said Adrian Gonzalez, assistant inspector in-charge.
Among those being reimbursed is Sherman Oaks resident Lori Myslinski, who was tricked into thinking she had won a lottery, only to see her bank balance of more than $7,000 wiped out.
"It wasn't a lot of money, but it was everything I had," said Myslinski.
Myslinski isn't alone. Postal inspectors say tens of thousands of people around the country were reeled in and ripped off by corrupt MoneyGram agents from 2004 to 2009. Inspectors ran though a long list of the scams.
"The con artists used counterfeit checks, a lottery and prize schemes, secret shoppers, an employment scam, the false emergency scam...they were guaranteed loans. Bottom line, there's a never ending number of fraudulent schemes," said Postal Inspector Shari Delaney.
Faye Hauser-Price picked up a check for $9,500. It's money her now late-father lost to scammers. She discovered the fraud after looking through his mail one day.
"It didn't seem right and we started to see numerous mailings," said Hauser-Price.
Postal inspectors say the $100-million fraud settlement doesn't end their MoneyGram investigation. They are still pursuing criminal charges against the people involved in the scams. In the meantime, they're warning the public to be wary of prizes that require you to pay money up front.
"If you're skeptical about something, take a moment and talk to your friends and family," said Postal Inspector Renee Focht.
As for Myslinski, the catering worker says she's been living paycheck to paycheck since the scam and this cash couldn't have come at a better time.
"It was just like a Christmas present to me. As little as it is, it's like a million dollars to me," she said.