Five Liberian men who apparently subscribed to the P.T. Barnum school of thought, were arrested recently for a "Black Money" scheme in which they promised business owners $100,000 in cash for $50,0000, city police said today.
The men, who must have believed that "There's a sucker born every minute," a phrase often attributed to circus entertainer P.T. Barnam, approached business owners with stacks of what they said were hundred dollar bills dyed black, according to police.
The men, who are all in the country legally, said they had to dye the money black to smuggle it into the United States and that they would show business owners how to wash it off and give them the chemicals to do it, police said.
They would demonstrate the washing process for the victims with two real hundred dollar bills they had hidden in a stack of fake black paper, police said. Those two real bills were dyed black with shoe polish or a similar over-the-counter substance and the suspects would wash them off in front of the victims in a hot water bath, Lt. Ray Evers, police spokesman said.
After the demonstration, the suspects would offer what they said was $100,000 worth of the dyed money in exchange for $50,000 cash, police said.
One West Philly restaurant owner who was approached about the scheme on Nov. 10 contacted police, who set up a sting to catch the men on Nov. 18. The operation went off without a hitch and police arrested the two suspects who set up the deal as well as the men's driver and two men who worked surveillance.
Southwest Detectives Lt. John Walker said police are investigating two prior, similar cases to see if they could be connected to the same ring and that the Secret Service is also involved to investigate whether the operation reaches beyond Philadelphia.
When asked why someone might fall for such a far-out scheme, Walker said "greed becomes the issue."
The suspects, who range in age from 24 to 36, have all been charged with forgery, theft and related offenses, according to police.