FAIRFIELD — It was a frightening telephone call for help that was made recently to an elderly grandmother in Colusa County. Her grandson Troy had been arrested in Canada and desperately needed money to help post bail and get out from behind bars. Her grandson would be freed as soon as she wired the money for the bail from her bank.
Grandma knew right away she was being targeted by ruthless con artists. Her grandson Troy is Fairfield Police Detective Troy Oliver. It was nonsensical to imagine the veteran lawman was stuck in a Canadian jail.
Oliver’s grandmother knew better than to fall for the latest ruse to steal from vulnerable seniors. But other seniors are not so lucky. A few weeks ago, Vacaville police took a report from a grandmother who had sent $2,700 to get her grandson out of jail and found out she had been robbed.
“The grandson bail scam is the current one we’re seeing,” Oliver said recently. He has spent countless hours in his law enforcement career talking with and educating seniors about how crooks target and exploit and steal.
The grandson bail scam has supplanted the “You have won a prize” scam with the targeted victim getting a check in the mail with promises of a much bigger prize being on the way as soon as a cashier’s check is sent to the prize giver.
Oliver is quick to remind potential elder abuse fraud victims that the perpetrators are not always strangers.
“I’d estimate that 50 percent of the time or more the people who defraud seniors are family members,” Oliver said. “Often some elderly victims don’t want to report relatives or they might worry they would lose a primary caregiver. . . . Nine times out of 10, the family does not want to prosecute.”
Charles L. Lalicata, 56, of Fairfield is one of those perpetrators caught by Oliver. Lalicata was recently convicted of felony elder abuse. He defrauded his 84-year-old father out of more than $60,000 by forging checks from his father’s bank account. In August, Lalicata was ordered to spend a year in jail for his crimes and was placed on five years of probation.
In Vacaville, the elderly parents of Cherise Berumen were allegedly victimized out of nearly $100,000 by their daughter. Berumen, 44, allegedly made a wire transfer of $100,000 out of her parents’ Charles Schwab account and into her own bank account in November 2008. Berumen’s 82-year-old mother and 85-year-old father, residents of Vacaville, both told police they had not given their daughter permission to take the money out of the account.
Berumen, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to five years in prison if she is convicted of the charges.
If you suspect you might be a victim of financial elder abuse or know someone who may be the victim of financial elder abuse, you can contact Solano County Adult Protective Services at 784-8259 during regular office hours or 800-850-0012 after hours. Reporters may remain anonymous, but are encouraged to give their name and telephone number to provide information for the investigation.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.