Orono man accused of vacation fraud says he was scammed

Who wouldn't want to spend a vacation on the beaches of Hawaii, possibly renting a gorgeous home for a week on Maui? That dream proved to be a real dud for at least a couple of people scammed by apparently fake online ads at Craigslist and westmauicondos.com.      

Police in the west metro community of Orono, think they know who is behind the alleged fraud — a man by the name of Jim Thrune. Investigators executed a search warrant recently, seizing Thrune's computers from inside his Lake Minnetonka area apartment.

"I think it's probably part of a network. That's my guess from what I heard from other people who experienced manipulation and rental frauds," Thrune’s attorney Jerry Burg said. "He's been duped himself."

Burg insists his client is no online vacation fraudster, but rather a victim of identity theft.

“His computer skills are negligible at best. I'm not a wizard. But I look like Einstein next to this guy,” Burg said of his client’s tech knowledge.

The way burg tells it, Thrune supposedly befriended a woman on the Internet, a Rachel from South Africa, who had a Facebook page that includes photos and biographical information. The relationship started friendly and flirtatious before "Rachel" convinced Thrune to open a U.S. Bank account for her and to float her $10,000 for her eventual move to the states.   

Thrune also somehow allegedly gave her remote access to his laptop and from there Burg says whoever Rachel is launched the Hawaii vacation fraud -- framing Thrune as the mastermind.

"This person or entity, whatever it was, manipulated him pretty effectively,” Burg said. "I would imagine some people are thinking how could anybody be that dumb. I don't think it's a matter of being dump. It's a matter of believing people that are telling you a sad story."

According to the search warrant, police tracked down the computer I.P. address from those fake Hawaii postings to Thrune's device. Investigators wouldn't comment on their case, which is still active. Though it's important to note -- no charges have been filed.