Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Plasma Pat' blames victims' greed in television scam

Anyone with information on Joseph Wesley Torma or the “Plasma Pat” cases may call the Largo Police Department at (727) 587-6728 or call your local law enforcement agency.

Largo Police Department

Anyone with information on Joseph Wesley Torma or the “Plasma Pat” cases may call the Largo Police Department at (727) 587-6728 or call your local law enforcement agency.

LARGO — A con artist dubbed "Plasma Pat" has taunted police with claims he's swindled thousands of people out of cash in a scheme that promises a big screen TV but delivers only embarrassment.

The man has been identified as 60-year-old Joseph Wesley Torma, Largo police said Wednesday. But he remains on the loose, despite making a series of calls to police and being identified by the latest victim and tipsters, authorities say.

During a handful of conversations with a detective, Torma bragged he had run the scam on 30,000 people and said most people would never report the crime because they would be too embarrassed, said Largo police Lt. Mike Loux.

"He's bragged about how many victims he thinks he's had over his lifetime," Loux said. "I've listened to the calls, and he shows no remorse. He blames the victims for their greed."

In the scam, Torma poses as a Wal-Mart employee named "Pat" and tells his victims that he can get them a good deal on a big-screen television, police say. After victims hand over the cash, he leaves and never returns with the TV.

Torma was identified by tipsters who recognized his picture last month after media reports of the latest incident at a Largo Wal-Mart, Loux said. Shortly after the St. Petersburg Times ran a story on the incident, Torma started calling Largo police, Loux said.

Police said they can't substantiate Torma's claims about the number of victims, but do think he's run the same scam in at least a dozen jurisdictions statewide, from as far north as Lake County and as far south as Fort Lauderdale.

"We know he's been doing it for years," Loux said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said it has investigated two similar crimes, both at the Wal-Mart at 3801 Tampa Road in Oldsmar in December 2007 and January 2009.

In both cases, a man wearing a Wal-Mart ID badge offered a discounted price on a large television. The man left after he took the victim's money and promised to return with the television. He received $490 in cash in one incident, and $400 in the other.

The modus operandi is nearly identical to what happened to a 67-year-old man at the Largo Wal-Mart on Feb. 9, when the man gave Torma $300 in cash for a big-screen TV, police said. While the man waited outside, Torma entered the store through one door and left from another door without obtaining the TV.

The Largo victim was able to pick Torma out of a photo lineup, according to Loux.

In that case, and at least one other in Pinellas County, Torma approached his victims in a bar, authorities said.

Torma is suspected in a similar case in St. Petersburg and another in Clearwater, Loux said.

Torma's last known address is in Texas, but he has ties to the Tampa Bay area, Loux said.

Since 1991, Torma has been arrested for fraud, grand theft auto and petty theft in Hillsborough County, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

'Plasma Pat' blames victims' greed in television scam 03/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 28, 2009 12:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series puts Florida Gators in elite company


    With Tuesday night's College World Series win, the Florida Gators put themselves in rare company.

    Florida celebrates after defeating LSU in Game 2 of the College World Series finals, Tuesday, in Omaha, Neb.
  2. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned


    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. []
  3. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami


    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  4. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  5. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race


    A new poll shows a tight race between former mayor Rick Baker and Mayor Rick Kriseman, currently engaged in the most expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg history. 

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.