Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Duo Rips Off 90-Year Old, Dementia-Suffering Homeowner For Landscaping Work; Cops: Since Victim Agreed To Pay, No Crime Was Committed, Say It Could Be A Civil Matter

In North Platte, Nebraska, The North Platte Telegraph reports:
  • Vulnerable senior citizens face a plethora of scams that try to take advantage of them. It can be difficult to discern who is offering honest services and who is not.

    On Feb. 10, a local man was approached by two men offering to do some landscaping work for him.

    “They went to my dad’s house — he’s almost 91 and has dementia and Alzheimer’s — and they asked if they could do some lawn work and clean up the gutters,” said Cindy Hall, of North Platte. “They quoted him $550.”

    Hall and her husband were out of the state at the time.

    “They wanted the money up front, and my dad got in the car with the two men and they took him to the bank,” Hall said. “They waited in the parking lot while my dad went in and withdrew the money.”

    Hall said she has her dad’s account flagged, but apparently the bank overlooked the flag and gave the money to Hall’s father.

    “However, the bank was suspicious and wrote the license plate number down and gave me that information,” Hall said.

    Hall called one of the men and asked for at least half the money back. He refused, saying they had done the work. Hall then called the police.

    The police investigated but said that because Hall’s father had agreed to pay the men for the work, it was not a criminal matter. It could be a civil matter, police said.(1)

    “Two men requested to trim an elderly man’s tree and do some other work like cleaning the gutters,” Investigator John Deal wrote in an email. “The man agreed, and once the work was completed he paid the men $400. The officer that took the report indicated that there wasn’t likely $400 of work done.”

    The $400 was for work done the first day; the men were to return to do more the next day for an additional $150.

    No contracts were signed, Deal wrote in an email.

    It did appear to be ‘shady’ business practices by the two men, but it would be in the gray area between criminal activity or something that would need to be settled in small claims court,”(2) Deal said. “We haven’t had any other reports in the past several weeks of similar instances occurring.”

    The police instructed the two men not to return to the property.

    Friends and family of vulnerable adults need to be vigilant, said Steve Chatelain, co-owner of Home Instead in North Platte, which cares for Hall’s father.
    ***
    Despite the fact Hall had arranged for someone to watch over her father while she was gone, he was taken advantage of by someone who apparently knew when to approach him at a most vulnerable time.

    “This is someone who is only on Social Security,” Hall said. “The scary thing is he got into the vehicle with these men.”
For the story, see Men’s ‘shady’ landscaping not criminal (Family of vulnerable adults need to be vigilant, says co-owner of Home Instead).
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(1) With all due respect to the cops, washing their hands of this incident by claiming it was a civil matter is ridiculous. Inasmuch as financial scams tend to be difficult to prosecute, one wonders whether the cops have been instructed by their supervisors (or the local prosecutor's office) to take this stance because they (and/or the prosecutor's office) don't have the necessary resources to devote to investigating & prosecuting it. One thing is for sure - the mere fact that a ripoff victim 'agreed' to pay the scam artist doesn't automatically 'immunize' the scam artist from criminal liability (ie. theft by deception, theft by false pretenses, etc.).

(2) Ibid.

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