On Wednesday, August 4, a 91-year-old Verona resident received a type of phone call that is commonly referred to as a “grandparent bail scam.” The caller represented himself as an attorney and said that the resident’s grandson was involved in a situation and needed $15,000 in cash for bail. He stated that the resident could not speak with anyone as there was a “gag order” on the case. The information provided was very convincing and the resident believed his grandson was in trouble. The caller stated that he would send a representative to the resident’s house to retrieve the cash.
After the resident drove to his bank, he became suspicious and stopped at Verona Police headquarters. The police set up a plan to monitor the hand-off of the money. Detective Lieutenant Timothy Banta and Captain David Wardrope snuck through rear yards to enter the resident’s home because they believed, and later confirmed, that the senior’s residence was being observed by the person sent to retrieve the cash. The caller contacted the resident again with additional instructions and said his “courier” was pulling up to retrieve the cash. As the person exited his vehicle and approached the front door, D/Lt. Banta and Capt. Wardrope exited the residence and pursued the suspect on foot. They apprehended the suspect a block and half away without incident.
The suspect was charged with theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft, and resisting arrest. After being processed, he was released with a court date in September. Due to the ongoing investigation, the Verona Police Department is not releasing the suspect’s name.
“Thankfully the resident contacted the Verona Police and was not scammed out of his money,” said Chief Christopher Kiernan. “He did a great job in assisting the process and his calm and cool demeanor kept the caller engaged. We urge all residents, especially seniors, to be vigilant in protecting themselves from these scams. The best deterrent against these scams is awareness. My advice is to not pick up unknown numbers and let them go to voicemail. If you do answer, just hang up on any caller who asks for money or alternate payment methods–such as gift cards–for government services or utility monies owed. Always call the police if you have questions and never ever trust anyone who tells you not to call the police.”
“These scammers are very active,” Kiernan added. “This person arrested is only a small part of a large operation that originates overseas. In his capacity as a courier or mule for the operation, he was turning down work that wasn’t local enough for his convenience.”