January 15, 2005 in Nation/World

Police seek more elderly victims of crime ring

Murray Dubin Philadelphia Inquirer
 

PHILADELPHIA – Police are looking for more victims of a ring of women who, in the past seven months, are accused of cheating more than a dozen elderly men in three states of $3 million, with stories of their need for lifesaving operations.

Police in Upper Darby, Pa., and Philadelphia arrested two of the suspected women late last year after an 80-year-old Upper Darby man gave Sandra Anderson, 28, $314,000 for a liver transplant operation, Philadelphia officer Louis Sgro, of the major crimes unit, said Friday.

“He cared about the woman, and called the hospital in New York where she was supposed to have the operation. He couldn’t find her,” Sgro said.

That case, as well as similar cases in Florida and New York and the discovery that many of the checks were being cashed in Philadelphia, led Philadelphia police to work with the Delray Beach and Miami-Dade police in Florida, said Capt. John McGinnis, commanding officer of the major crimes unit in Philadelphia.

So far, seven people – six women and one man – have been arrested and charged with theft and theft by deception. All are free on bail. A seventh woman is being sought.

“We’ve talked to people, and now we think there are more victims, that this has been going on for years,” said Sgro. At the moment, the Upper Darby man is the only local victim, he said.

Arrested in the Upper Darby case, police said, were Sandra Anderson; her mother, Paula Marion, 48; and Sonny Stanley, 32, Anderson’s husband.

Sgro said the police’s Crimes Against the Retired and Elderly unit was able to connect the dots and tie similar crimes against the elderly in several states to the same band of perpetrators.

“This is a group targeting the elderly along the East Coast,” said McGinnis. “They tell them they need lifesaving surgery, like a liver transplant, and get their money. Pennsylvania and Florida are targeted because they have large elderly populations.”

Sgro said the women targeted men eating alone in shopping centers. “They con people. They sit there, and they cry. Most of the men were wealthy, and they haven’t wanted to admit that they were taken advantage of,” he said.

In one Florida case, he said, the crime was not discovered until after the victim died and a son found the check. McGinnis said of the women: “All these people were healthy. They weren’t sick. They got to people who had good hearts. And it probably didn’t hurt that they were pretty.”

Sgro added that even though arrests have been made, the scams appear to be continuing. Florida police are investigating “a $463,000 check that was cashed the other day.”


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