A 71-year-old woman reported falling victim to a scam that resulted in her losing $34,500 in cash, said an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
Twice, the woman voluntarily withdrew thousands from an ATM and handed it over to scammers, said Capt. Tommy Rice, head of the Financial Crimes Unit.
The woman reported she was at Home Depot at 8181 Airline Highway on April 12 when she was approached by a man she didn’t know, who appeared to be in his late 50s, Rice said.
The man, who was wearing a suit and tie, told the victim that he was illiterate and that he had recently “fallen into a lot of money,” Rice said.
The man showed the woman a letter, which detailed how he had been given the money, and asked for help in reading it, Rice said. After she read the letter to him, the man asked her to drive him down the street to a bank parking lot where he was to receive his money, Rice said.
The victim complied, and in the car on the way to the parking lot, the two had a “very kind, very polite” conversation, Rice said.
In the parking lot, the man introduced the victim to a second man who was holding a brown paper bag, which the woman was told contained $19,500 in cash.
The pair convinced the woman that, in order for them to trust that she wasn’t going to steal their money, she should withdraw $19,500 in cash from the bank and put it in another brown paper bag.
“They asked her, ‘Why don’t you withdraw the same amount of money just to show that you’re not gonna steal from us?’ ” Rice said.
The men placed both brown bags in the woman’s trunk, and asked her to drive them both around a bit, Rice said. The woman drove the men around the area for about 15 minutes, during which time they all engaged in a casual conversation, Rice said.
Eventually, the woman said she had business to take care of, so the men exited her car and asked her to open the trunk, Rice said.
One of the men grabbed the brown bag containing the woman’s cash and told her, ‘Okay, we got ours, you have a nice day,’ ” Rice said.
When the woman got home, she looked inside her brown paper bag, and found it filled with newspaper clippings cut in the shape of dollar bills.
The first man is described as between 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-3, medium build, about 180 lbs., no teeth, dark complexion, approximately 50 years old, and wearing a baseball cap, a suit and tie. The second man is described as 5-foot-6, 150 to 160 lbs., balding on top, dark complexion, approximately 50 years old, wearing a T-shirt, possibly blue, according to a news release.
On Thursday, the woman reported falling victim to a scam again in which she lost $15,000.
She told sheriff’s detectives she was in her car, stopped at a stop sign near her home in Baker, when a Chevrolet Impala, driven by a black woman, pulled up behind her and an unknown white man with handcuffs on his belt exited and ran up to her driver’s side window.
He identified himself as a police officer, Rice said, showing her an oval-shaped gold badge, and told her she was under arrest for her part in a scam involving counterfeit money.
The man told her the two black men she had met at Home Depot had been arrested as well, Rice said.
The man said the only way she could escape arrest was if it turned out the bank teller was responsible for the counterfeit money, so they needed to return to the same bank and take out $15,000 in cash and see if that money was counterfeit, Rice said.
The victim complied, Rice said. After withdrawing the $15,000, the man drew a line across one of the bills and declared it to be counterfeit and said he was taking all the money as evidence but that she was free to go, Rice said.
The white man is described as in his late 50s to early 60s, slim build, 5’6’ to 5’7”, 140 lbs., gray hair, curly at the neck, well-spoken, and knowledgeable of police procedures. The black woman is described as late 40s to early 50s, 5’6”, 140 lbs., wearing a black wig.
Rice said these con artists preyed on the “human desire to help another human being,” which is common in scams.
Rice cautioned the public to be skeptical of anyone who offers any type of reward or anything that sounds “too good to be true.”
Rice also said that members of the public should call the law enforcement agency an undercover police officer is claiming to work for to make sure they are, in fact, an officer.
Anyone with information regarding these subjects’ whereabouts can contact the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office at 225-389-5000 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.