Scam Alert: LeClaire woman scammed out of $15K

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LECLAIRE, Iowa — A two-man team of scammers has been apprehended after a LeClaire woman sent them $15,000 cash in the mail.

According to a lengthy press release from The Leclaire Police Department:

“On September 19th, 2018, an elderly female came to the LeClaire Police Department to report that she had been the victim of a scam. The victim advised that on the previous day, she had received a call from an “attorney’s office” in Garfield, New Jersey, claiming that her grandson had been involved in a serious automobile accident. The “attorney’s office” advised the victim that her grandson had been at fault for the accident and she needed to send $15,000 via FedEx as payment for their office to represent her grandson.”

The woman (who police decided not to identify for privacy reasons) believed the suspect’s story about her grandson and she sent $15,000 in cash to the address, according to police. The package was received and signed for on the morning of September 19th. It was at this point that the woman realized she was scammed and she reported it to the police department.

A LeClaire investigator made contact with the Garfield Police Department in New Jersey and sent them all of the information from the interview with the woman.

Fool Me Twice…

According to the LeClaire Police Department the next day September 20th, the scammers called again, claiming that she needed to send an additional $50,000, because a pregnant female had died due to injuries from the accident.

Little did they know the Garfield Police Department had set up a sting operation. They told the woman to send another package (filled only with magazines) to the new address that she was given.

A Clever Trap

It was two days later on September 22nd, that the Garfield Police Department sprung their trap. According to police, the FedEx truck arrived at 9:30 a.m. and detectives arrested a man who had received the package from the FedEx driver.

The man was Silvestre Urena, however, he was using a fake NJ driver’s license with an alias, police said. During the surveillance operation, officers also noticed a vehicle that had been circling the area before the delivery, what police call a  “lookout vehicle.”

After the first arrest, New Jersey police officers stopped the vehicle and the man driving, they identified him as Francisco Pena, who quickly admitted to being the lookout for Mr. Urena, according to the statement.

And A Happy Ending

Investigators interrogated the pair, and both of them admitted to being the masterminds behind the scam.

Thanks to the LeClaire, Iowa Police Department and the Garfield, New Jersey Police Department the following charges are being filed in Garfield, New Jersey:

  • Silvestre Urena – Theft by Deception (2 counts) and Fraudulent Government Documents (1 count)
  • Francisco Pena – Theft by Deception (1 count)

LeClaire Police said:

“The LeClaire Police Department would like to remind people to be extremely cautious when a person and/or company requests money over the phone. Please double check with your local law enforcement agency if you are not sure that the request is legitimate. These types of scams are becoming more and more frequent in our area and seem to be mostly targeting elderly people.”

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