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Scams & Warnings

WANTED: Con Artists Who Sold Woman a Fake ‘Gold Brick’

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NORWALK — Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives are searching for two con artists targeting and swindling elderly individuals in several cities including Norwalk, Paramount and Anaheim.

On notable scam occurred in October when two fraudsters entered a popular retail establishment located on the 10600 block of Firestone Boulevard in Norwalk and took advantage of an 80 year-old elderly lady by tricking her into giving them $4,000 cash for a fake “gold brick.”

The fraudsters had convinced the 80 year-old lady to buy the “gold brick” by offering it to her at half the claimed value. Additionally, the suspects claimed it was real and that they could not sell it because of their illegal immigration status.

The 80 year-old lady then drove to a nearby bank with the suspects in her car, withdrew the $4000 cash and gave it to the fraudsters.

The female fraudster (pictured in the flyer) is described as a female Hispanic, approximately 40-50 years of age, standing approximately 5 feet tall and weighing about 210 lbs. She wore a dark bandana, eyeglasses, a black shirt and blue jeans.

The second fraudster who is also pictured in the flyer is described as a male Hispanic, approximately 60 years of age, standing approximately 5’11” tall and weighing about 180 lbs. He wore a straw hat, light green shirt and tan/beige colored pants.

Novelty gold bar for sale on Amazon.

If you recognize any or both of the two pictured fraudsters, you are encouraged to contact Norwalk Sheriff’s Station, Detective Hernandez at 562-466-5431 or email aahernan@lasd.org.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department wants you to know that the elderly are frequent targets of con artists like these because generally, elderly individuals exemplify politeness and trust, are willing to listen and are considered naïve. The elderly may also tend be alone and not able to provide enough detailed information to family or investigators.

If you or someone you know are elderly, please consider the following information to avoid being scammed:

  • 1. If someone approaches you and tries to sell you anything in public, it’s probably a trick or a fake product. Walk away.
  • 2. Don’t believe any strangers out in public attempting to sell you gold or diamonds for a cheaper price. Walk away.
  • 3. If the deal or prize is too good to be true; it’s more than likely a scam. Walk away and don’t give these individuals your attention or time.

If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 Tips” Mobile APP on Google play or the Apple App Store or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org

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Prosecutions

Man Who Extorted Santa Monicans With Gay Sex Ads Pleads Guilty

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LOS ANGELES (Santa Monica Mirror) — A man has pleaded guilty to using Craigslist, among other sites, to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Santa Monica and Los Angeles men who responded to ads offering gay sex services.

28-year-old Tyler Buchanan pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal felony charges using an interstate facility to facilitate an unlawful activity, transmitting threatening communications with intent to extort, receiving and disposing of proceeds of extortion and criminal forfeiture.

Buchanan, who remains in federal custody due to being deemed a risk to flee, faces up to 10 years in federal depending on the outcome of a sentencing hearing set for May 11.

Over a period of six years, Buchanan purchased more than 1,300 ads […]

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Prosecutions

Accountant Sentenced for Embezzling from Girl Scouts and Local Cancer Center

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by Carol Kay

LOS ANGELES — An accountant was sentenced today to one year in jail and five years of formal probation for embezzling more than $93,000 from the Girl Scouts and a local cancer center over a four-year period, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Deputy District Attorney Benyomin Forer of the Cyber Crime Division said Patricia Cascione, 53, of Santa Clarita pleaded no contest on Wednesday to one felony count of embezzlement by a public or private officer and agreed to pay restitution as to both victims named in the criminal complaint.

Cascione, a certified public accountant, was the chief financial officer of the Beverly Hills Cancer Center and the volunteer treasurer for two local Girl Scouts of the United States of America chapters as well as a Girl Scouts service unit when the crimes occurred, the prosecutor said.
 
From March 1, 2013, to Feb. 13, 2017, Cascione used funds totaling $58,863 from the Girl Scouts accounts for her personal use.

Furthermore, in her CFO role, the defendant diverted $34,500 in donations from the cancer center to one of her Girl Scouts accounts in order to embezzle the money, the prosecutor added.
 
     

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Consumer News

Better Business Bureau Says Online Vacation Rental Fraud Widespread

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Online Vacation Rental Fraud Widespread, Better Business Bureau Says

MEMPHIS (Public News Service) — Fraud is widespread in the online vacation rental market, according to a new report by the Better Business Bureau. The study found nearly 43% of consumers have encountered a bogus listing.

Nancy Crawford, director of marketing and communications at the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, said the internet has opened the floodgates for scammers, so shoppers need to be savvy.

“There’s so much fraud in today’s world. About 26 million Americans are defrauded by some type of scam every year,” Crawford said. “It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, and it is big business.”

The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker received more than 1,300 reports of rental fraud from 2016 to 2019. The report noted fake rentals turn up on vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.com, despite these companies’ efforts to weed out scam listings.

Crawford said fraudsters most often copy a photo and description of a property, post it online with their own contact information, and then try to get a deposit from the victim.

“Doing some research ahead of time and finding out what typical properties in that area usually rent for will give you some information so that you don’t land on a listing that’s half the price of everything else, and you think, ‘Oh, great, this is a great deal,’ and then end up going on vacation and having nowhere to stay,” she said.

According to the report, renters may find websites that are actually cloned copies of Airbnb’s website. Airbnb warns travelers that scammers tend to exploit popular events, such as the Super Bowl, when hotels may be booked.

“With 43% of online shoppers encountering a fake listing, and more than 5 million consumers losing money to these kinds of scams,” Crawford said.

She added victims of a suspected property-rental scam should immediately file a report with the local police and file a complaint or report a scam to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

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