HARRISBURG, Pa - Pennsylvania's attorney general has charged four people -- three from the southeastern part of the state -- in connection with a scam targeting the elderly.
Kathleen Kane announced Thursday that a grand jury investigation led to charges against four co-conspirators for the scheme that targeted victims through the country in a fraud called "grandparent scam."
The four people charged face two counts of corrupt organizations and one count each of criminal conspiracy, identity theft and theft by deception:
• Spencer Compas, 29, 2113 S. Etting St., Philadelphia;
• Witson Lavilette, 38, 3901 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia;
• Johanne Wesh, 37, 1428 Easton Road, Abington, Montgomery County; and
• Kens Wesh, 38, 1446 E 86th St., Brooklyn, New York.
The scammers allegedly stole at least $162,000 from victims, and are accused of trying to steal around $37,000 more.
Kane said one victim -- a woman from Texas -- lost nearly $65,000 in the scheme.
According to the grand jury, the investigation began following a complaint from a 77-year-old man, identified as Thomas I. from California. He said he had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by a caller claiming to be an attorney for his grandson, who supposedly was arrested for a DUI in Philadelphia. The caller said the money was for bail and attorney's fees.
After receiving $6,600 from the victim, the scammers called again and said they would need an additional $10,000. The victim then realized he had been scammed and that his grandson was never arrested.
The "grandparent scam" is one of the more common scams targeted at the elderly. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that people across the country have been scammed out of $42 million as a result of "grandparent scams."
The attorney general's office is seeking other victims and believes there could be many more across the country.
Anyone who believes that they were scammed by these individuals after sending (or being asked to send) money to an address in Philadelphia, Abington (Montgomery County) or Bronx, New York, should contact the Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Section in Norristown at 610-631-5937.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Southeastern PA Matt Rourke/AP