Could Uber help solve who scammed a Tampa Bay widow out of $700,000?

An 82-year-old woman believed her granddaughter was in trouble and gave big money to scammers. Now detectives want to know who booked Uber trips to and from her home.
Uber rides may provide interesting evidence in the case of an 82-year-old woman scammed out of $700,000, detectives say.
Uber rides may provide interesting evidence in the case of an 82-year-old woman scammed out of $700,000, detectives say. [ ERIC RISBERG | AP ]
Published Nov. 11, 2021

Detectives investigating the theft of more than $700,000 from an elderly Hillsborough County woman are now looking for a bit of a lift from Uber.

This summer, scammers convinced 82-year-old Anna Nunn that her granddaughter was in serious legal trouble and needed her help, convincing Nunn to make repeated withdrawals from her bank and hand over bricks of cash to a courier, according to her attorney and a lawsuit filed in the case.

The so-called “grandparent scam” wasn’t an uncommon one, but the six-figure loss — much of Nunn’s life savings — was an eyebrow-raiser.

Now the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office wants records from Uber about rideshare pickups at Nunn’s home between April and August — including the Uber account holder’s name and credit card information, the trips’ histories and the pick-up and drop-off locations.

That “will assist with providing information to who purchased the rideshares and where the victim’s funds actually went,” a detective wrote in court records. “Ms. Nunn confirmed she did not place these rideshares.”

Hillsborough County Judge Jack Gutman signed a search warrant to get the information from Uber, which had already confirmed several rides to Nunn’s home, according to court records.

An Uber spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company is in touch with the Sheriff’s Office to help with the investigation.

Though a court affidavit indicated Nunn’s address was the Uber pick-up spot, it did not appear to specify whether the rides were believed to be for couriers who regularly came to her house to get the cash. The Sheriff’s Office declined to clarify that point Wednesday, citing an active investigation.

Nunn, a widow, got the first call from a young woman claiming to be her granddaughter, saying she had been in a car accident and needed money to get out of jail. Then a man who said he was her lawyer took the phone.

Nunn was convinced to make 13 withdrawals from different branches of BB&T Bank, ending at $100,000 when she ran out of money. Her attorney, Guy Burns, said the scammers’ story kept getting more elaborate as the weeks went on.

Nunn was instructed to tell anyone who asked at the bank that the money was for home improvements by contractors who preferred cash. She was also told how to wrap the bricks of money in padded envelopes to be picked up.

Burns said the FBI has also contacted them about the case.

In September, Nunn filed a civil lawsuit against Truist Bank, created when BB&T merged with SunTrust, alleging negligence for allowing her to keep making large and unusual withdrawals even after red flags were raised.