By Ryan Broussard
Advocate staff writer
October 07, 2012
Baton Rouge Police booked two men into Parish Prison in an alleged scheme aimed at defrauding an elderly man, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
John Bowens, 56, 6663 Silhouette Ave., Memphis, Tenn., and Earnest Puryear, 55, of Tennessee, were booked Thursday on counts of crimes against the elderly and theft for their alleged roles in a “pigeon drop” scam, the affidavit says.
A pigeon drop usually involves a group of people scamming someone, usually an elderly person, by asking for money as a gesture of goodwill in order to split a large amount of money they “found,” then taking off with the person’s money before that person realizes what happened. The victim is called the “pigeon.”
According to the affidavit, Bowens approached a 65-year-old man in the parking of Albertsons, 4857 Government St., and asked him for a ride to the Go Auto car lot at 7119 Florida Blvd. Once there, Puryear entered the car and asked the driver to participate in a card game.
The driver refused, saying he needed to bring his groceries home. Bowens then offered him a large sum of money to hold on to so the victim could drive the two men to an unknown location after he brought his groceries home, the affidavit says.
Bowens then asked the driver to place his wallet and the suspects’ money in a bag in his trunk so they could trust him, the affidavit said. The driver left to bring his groceries home, leaving the men in the parking lot.
He pulled over not long after leaving the lot to check the trunk. He found that his wallet and the money were gone and there was only a folded newspaper in the bag, the affidavit says.
He returned to the Go Auto lot to find the men running to a dark gray Chevrolet Impala, which had North Carolina plates, then driving away, the affidavit says.
On Thursday, police responded to a call at the Piggly Wiggly on Plank Road about three men acting suspiciously and asking for rides. Police detained the men after noticing the same Chevy Impala from the original complaint.
Neither man has a criminal record in Louisiana. Puryear did plead guilty to theft of less than $500 in 1994 in Tennessee, according to the Shelby County Clerk of Court website.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office gets thousands of complaints each year about scams and frauds, said Sanettria Pleasant, director of the office’s Public Protection Division.
She said the most frequent scam against the elderly in the state is a home improvement scam in which someone stops at a house and asks the residents if they would like something repaired or remodeled. Most of the time, the con artists are able to convince the homeowner to give them money or a check up front.
Pleasant said the Attorney General’s Office has a 90 percent success rate in catching local offenders in money-wiring schemes reported to their office, with a 75 percent chance of retrieving the money and a close to 99 percent chance of catching the perpetrators of home improvement scams reported to their office. She said many of the offenders are repeat offenders and investigators catch them by following a paper trail.
“Don’t agree to anything on the spot, and if you feel pressured, just say no or close the door or hang up,” said Pleasant, adding that any legitimate person would give people time to make a decision and would not pressure them.
Pleasant said people who feel they were wronged in a fraud or scam should call the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889.
“In the South, we’re taught to be so polite, and I think that’s how people get taken,” Pleasant said. “We don’t want to be rude.”