A warning is out for small business owners.
If you are looking to sell, you could become the next victim.
U.S. Postal Inspector George Clark says, "The businesses most susceptible to this scheme were businesses with high cash flow in and out."
An empty warehouse is all that is left of a famed specialty food distributor.
"When Mr. Carabella died the business was passed on to his daughter, who spent 80 hours a week trying to run the business, forgoing college education, friends, relationships to the point where she was getting burned out."
So, she decided to sell her father's successful business. That's when a man entered the picture offering to buy. Under an alias, he acquired controlling interest to handle day-to-day financial matters, while the seller remained on staff until after closing. Then, investigators say, he drained the assets of the company.
"Creditors quickly started to question what was going on - they then quickly stopped supplying goods to Benny's Cheese to which point Ms Carabella stepped back in, pumping several-thousand dollars of her own money, paid off creditors and keep the business going."
Ultimately, the company suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses and was forced to close.
"There are businesses all over the country where things like this happened."
After a year long investigation by postal inspectors, they found that nearly 40 businesses fell victim to the same person.
Important information small business owners should always remember if they want to sell. Hire a lawyer. Though many small business owners don't want the expense, an attorney can help protect you from the pitfalls of these transactions.
Use the internet. Seek information on the person or company trying to buy your business.
"Google is a great tool for sniffing out scams and frauds."
The suspect involved received a sentence of more than 22 years in prison and was ordered to pay nearly five and a half million dollars in restitution.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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