Miami man charged for role in ‘grandparent’ scam after woman loses nearly $50K
WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A 31-year-old man from Miami is in custody on a $30,000 cash bond after he’s accused of scamming a woman out of nearly $50,000.
Alejandro Garcia is charged with two counts of theft. The charges will have an increased penalty because the victim is elderly. Garcia appeared in Marathon County Circuit Court on Monday.
According to court documents on May 5, a woman from the Marshfield area said she received a phone from someone pretending to be from the Marshfield Police Department. The woman was told her granddaughter had caused a car accident and was in jail. The woman was told she would need to pay $40,000 plus a $7,000 processing fee or her granddaughter would remain in custody.
The woman agreed to post the bail money. And a man arrived at her home to pick up the money.
The woman told investigations after the initial payment she received another phone call saying the woman her granddaughter hit in the crash was pregnant and had miscarried. The woman was told there was now a $100,000 civil suit that needed to be paid. The woman said during one of the phone calls she had spoken with a woman she believed was her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s lawyer. The phone number provided did go to a voicemail identifying the recipient as a lawyer. After this phone call, the victim called her daughter to talk about the crash. She was then information no crash had occurred and it was a scam. The woman continued to receive phone calls about the $100,000 claim. The woman’s children notified police that someone would be arriving in a short time to pick up the money. The man who arrived to collect the money was confronted by the victim’s son-in-law. Court documents state he became so startled he dropped his car keys and could not find them. He was unable to leave the scene.
Investigators identified the man as Garcia. Garcia told them he was in the area looking for a home for sale. He was arrested and booked into jail on theft charges.
An officer later located his car keys in some landscaping rocks. Garcia is expected to learn May 18 if his case will head to trial.
The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office is investigating three separate fraud complaints in which elderly residents were scammed out of a combined total of $83,400 over the past week. Garcia was arrested, but investigators are still working to determine if the three cases are connected. Investigators believe more people are involved in the scam. The Sheriff’s Office is aware that similar scams have taken place in other communities across the state over the past week.
All three victims were led to believe their granddaughter was involved in a car crash, was being held in jail, and needed bond money. The suspect showed up at the victim’s home in person and collected cash in all three incidents.
“It’s imperative that everyone remains vigilant when receiving requests for money from someone you don’t know,” said Sarah Severson, Public Information Officer for the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office.
Severson said people should verify the story with a friend or family member before taking action. She’s encouraging people to educate their love ones about the scam’s red flags. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection seniors and caregivers can request a free guide to help them identify scams. Click here to learn more.
If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of fraud, please contact your local law enforcement agency or the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office at 715-261-1200.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, some of the common scams targeting seniors that are outlined in the guide include:
- Grandparent scams (or “family emergency” scams) – a scammer falsely claims that a family member is in trouble and requests money. The scammers often claim to be the grandchild in need of help.
- Tech support scams – a “computer technician” says you have a computer virus that they can repair for payment and remote access to your computer.
- Timeshare resale fraud – someone claims that they have a buyer for your timeshare. After signing a phony “sales contract,” the victim is continuously asked for payments for document fees and other expenses.
- IRS/U.S. Treasury scams – a fake “federal agent” claims you owe back taxes and demands immediate payment.
- Medical alert/equipment fraud – scammers place robocalls to potential victims pitching “free” medical equipment and personal emergency alert systems. The items are often of questionable quality and are tied to recurring fees.
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