MANSFIELD, LA (KSLA) - Investigators have identified a suspect in a job scam in the Mansfield area that victimized hundreds in the area a few months ago.
A warrant has been issued for 32-year-old Alvin Dewayne Howard of Mansfield, also known as "Rudy" Howard, charging him with felony theft exceeding $30,000.00.
The scam promised jobs with a Texas oil refinery plant in Beaumont, Texas. Victims were approached and promised a job at Motiva in Port Arthur, Texas making $25.00 dollars an hour. They were told they had to pay $100 dollars for a TSA Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC). Victims were told to meet at a local church on November 9 to leave for Texas. Many quit their jobs to start work.
One scam victim who did not want to be identified on camera told KSLA News 12 that Howard "didn't seem like a bag egg at first." The victim says he began to get suspicious when the trip kept getting prolonged. He also says one night Howard came in the house and "things just didn't look right about him."
Authorities say 300 to 350 people that they know of, mostly in Mansfield, had fallen victim.
Police say following numerous interviews and after combing through multiple electronic devices, investigators were able to link Howard to the crime through numerous electronic fingerprints he left behind while carrying out the scam.
"The process was to get search search warrants for suspect emails we knew were used in the scam. We were able to track IP addresses and link those to our suspect," explained Lt. Adam Ewing of the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office.
Howard first claimed to be a victim of the scam, but authorities say they suspected all along it was him. Still, they needed to protect their investigation and protect their suspect from public harm.
"We spoke to him as soon as this started. We found out who was collecting the money. We contacted him. We did several interviews over course of a week until we realized we were looking at our suspect," said Lt. Ewing.
"It's taken us a long time to piece all this together, and get all the proper documentation to be able to show and link our suspect to the crime," continued Ewing.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, Howard has not been located. Police say he is also known to have acquaintances in the El Dorado, AR area.
Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts are asked to contact our office at (318) 872-3956.
Sheriff Arbuckle released a brief statement along with the press release Tuesday announcing the warrant for Howard, thanking the many victims for their patience while the investigation was carried out.