By CLINT FOSTER
The Mineral Wells Police Department is investigating a theft in which a Mineral Wells woman was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a man over the phone claiming to be her grandson.
Police said the 75-year-old victim wired $4,038 in three separate Western Union transactions between Jan. 9 and 11 to her faux-grandson, who claimed to have been injured in an accident in Mexico and in legal trouble.
MWPD investigators have discovered the money was sent to “Distrito Federal Mexican” but have little other information regarding suspects. Police said they have contacted Western Union’s fraud department, but are unsure as to whether the victim will be able to get her money back.
Such fraud, particularly fraud perpetrated against elderly victim’s is not unusual. In July of last year, a Palo Pinto County jury convicted Paula Kay Freeman, 43, who pled guilty of writing 66 hot checks worth $27,300 out of a 73-year old Vietnam veteran’s account. Freeman was smacked with a $10,000 fine, $27,300 in restitution and a 75-year sentence in prison.
The verdict led District Attorney Mike Burns to give a presentation at the Mineral Wells Senior Center about the importance of seniors protecting themselves from such scams. He gave information concerning how to safeguard banking information and how to respond to scams through the mail, email and phone calls like the one that victimized the woman this month.
“These identity thieves target the elderly,” he said before the event.
MWPD’s public information officer, Lt. Randy Wright, warned all citizens against the dangers of fraud and to alway be on-guard.
“This thing has literally been going on for years,” he said of the general issue of fraud. “We’ve dealt with Ebay fraud, Craigslist fraud, even people setting up websites to buy a higher dog breed where people will send them money orders and never receive a dog. It’s always something.
“Any phone calls that anyone receives where they can’t absolutely verify who they’re talking to (shouldn’t be trusted). If you get any suspicious packages wanting you to sign up for something and saying you’ll receive free money or gifts, it’s not worth even getting into. They need to contact the post office or us, depending on how it’s delivered to them.
“I hate to say it, but if it’s not face-to-face, then try to avoid it.”
• 2200 block of Old Millsap Highway – S&K Automotive reported a Lincoln Continental stolen off of their lot during the night on Jan. 11. Police said the auto shop had been working on the car for about a year, performing repairs and services worth around $1,300, and had yet to be paid. Depending on who turns out to be a suspect, police said the charge would be theft of services between $500 and $1,500 if it was the vehicles owner or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, otherwise.
MWPD reported the following arrests between Jan. 6 and 14:
• Michael Herstein, 40, was arrested Jan. 6 for a Class C warrant.
• Deana Beckett, 50, was arrested Jan. 6 for public intoxication.
• James P. Fox, 34, was arrested Jan. 7 for duty on striking fixture/highway landscape more than $200.
• Dulce Carrizales, 19, was arrested Jan. 8 for theft of property between $50 and $500.
• Kristopher Ballou, 40, was arrested Jan. 8 for public intoxication.
• Brandy Dahl, 24, was arrested Jan. 8 for disorderly conduct (language).
• JC Clark, 22, was arrested Thursday for a Class C warrant.
• Miranda Price, 19, was arrested Thursday for public intoxication.
• Gennifer Barnes, 34, was arrested Thursday for theft of property between $500 and $1,500.
• William Smith, 46, was arrested Thursday for a Class C warrant.
• Joshua Clayton, 28, was arrested Friday for organized retail theft under $50.
• Joey Rogers, 34, was arrested Saturday for a Class C warrant.
• Marlin Welch, 60, was arrested Sunday for disorderly conduct (public intoxication).
• Dustin Snell, 23, was arrested Sunday for a Class C warrant.
• Tadley Pontremoi, 35, was arrested Monday for a Class C warrant.
• Robert Schnyer, 37, was arrested Monday for driving while license suspended.
• Gerald Taylor, 53, , was arrested Monday for criminal trespassing.
• Chasity Trejo-Hull, 32, was arrested Monday for assault causing bodily injury to a family member.
• Daniel Brune, 26, was arrested Tuesday for a Class C warrant.