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Pasco detectives seek help catching con man

HOLIDAY — There is a con man preying on the elderly. So far, he's scammed two 87-year-old women. Authorities think there could be more victims who haven't come forward.

The con is an old one. Both victims got calls from a person who said he worked with their banks. He said an employee was suspected of stealing money and he wanted the victims to help with their investigation. The man on the phone told each woman to withdraw money and, if they gave it to him, it would be returned to their accounts. The bills would be marked, he said, so they could help catch the thief.

The first victim was called at 10 a.m. Aug. 28. Within an hour, she met the con man at a CVS parking lot at 2513 U.S. 19 in Holiday and gave him $3,000.

The second victim got a call at 4 p.m. Sept. 1. She withdrew $3,800 from her account and gave it to the man in the parking lot of the Tax Collector's office at 4720 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey.

Detective Natalie McSwane of the economic crimes unit with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said she doesn't know how the con artist targets his victims. She said usually people operating these scams will randomly call people throughout the day until they get one who takes the bait. Sometimes, she said, they will use obituaries to target elderly widows and widowers.

"That generation is very trusting," she said.

She asks for other victims to come forward, as well as anyone who might have gotten a call such as this. She said a con man in Melbourne, on Florida's east coast, was caught in April because a person got a phone call and pretended to go along with it, but then called the police, who set up a sting to nab the thief. McSwane said that suspect's call logs showed hundreds of phone calls a day.

"They are very good at talking to people," McSwane said of these traveling con artists.

McSwane said the Holiday thief is about 6 feet tall, a thin to medium build, with dark hair and glasses. At the CVS in August, he wore an untucked light-colored button down shirt and khaki pants.

She asks anyone with information to call her toll-free at 1-800-854-2862 ext. 7291. If you get a call like this, she said, call (727) 844-7711 immediately.

"We want to stop these as soon as possible," McSwane said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Pasco detectives seek help catching con man 10/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 11:50pm]
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