Sheriff: Phone scam that stole thousands from elderly woman traced to Griffin

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Spalding County Sheriff’s Office has arrested one woman, 42-year-old Ruth Garcia, of Stockbridge, in connection with the alleged scamming of an elderly Baldwin County resident.

Sheriff Darrell Dix was contacted by Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee on Feb. 3, with Massee providing information regarding the case.

Massee said an elderly Florida resident had sent a total of $24,000 to phone scammers before her family member learned of it and stopped it.

According to investigators, the scam involved a man calling the elderly female victim, identifying himself by name as her grandson and claiming he needed her help to get out of a jail, claiming he had been involved in a wreck and was charged with DUI and other traffic offenses.

The male caller allegedly told the elderly victim his bond was $8,000 and that he needed it in cash, and another man claiming to be a bail bondsman reportedly called her and requested the money for her grandson’s bail, telling her where to send it and how it should be sent.

Officials say the elderly woman gathered $8,000 in cash and it was delivered by the United States Postal Service to an address on Ray Street in Griffin.

The following day, the man who had posed as her grandson called again, claiming a victim in the wreck had died and said he needed an additional $16,000 cash for bail on new charges associated with the death.

The elderly woman again gathered the cash and sent it via the USPS to the same Ray Street address.

While working with the victim’s family and the USPS, Spalding County Sheriff’s Office investigators tracked and intercepted the second package containing the $16,000 in cash.

Once it was secured, a fake package was created and an SCSO Special Operations agent posed as a USPS delivery person.

When the Special Operations agent began to cross the yard at the Ray Street address, he was met by a Hispanic female who had pulled up in front of the address in a minivan.

The female, later identified as Ruth Garcia, allegedly verified the intended recipient, signed for and took custody of the package. She was taken into custody by the SCSO surveillance team as she began to walk away from the undercover agent.

Investigators have been unable to locate the original $8,000, but the $16,000 that was recovered will be returned to the elderly female victim.

When asked if there is a connection between Garcia and the Ray Street address, SCSO Maj. Dwayne Jones said, “We’re still trying to get to the bottom of this. We’re actively pursuing other leads. We are trying to establish what the connection is.”

He was able to confirm the Ray Street residence is occupied.

“We are still following leads in this case to work as far up the food chain as we can on this scam. We don’t know if we will be able to identify other victims or recover any of their assets as we move forward but we are going to do all we can to track it down. We are asking that everyone be aware and make others aware of these and other scams. If someone calls with a story needing money, please take the time to get the information from the caller and try to verify their story. If they say they are calling you from a jail, independently get the phone number to the jail they say they are at, call it, and ask if your loved one is there. This same type of scam also happens regarding hospitals where victims get calls saying that a loved one needs treatment, and it can’t be done until money is paid up front. Also, please remember that nobody is going to send you money if you have to pay money to them first. Many times, people who fall victim to scams are left feeling embarrassed, and this shouldn’t be the case at all,” said Sheriff Dix. “Scammers are professionals who know their jobs and have very convincing stories with information they are able to find about their victims. This information is often learned by scammers from social media posts by the victim, family members, or friends, and they manipulate it to create their victims. If you have elderly family members, other family members, or friends who you have concerns about potentially falling victim to scams, please sit down with them, and have a conversation about scams and how they operate. If you need information on preventing scams or how to not fall victim to scams, you can call the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office at 770.467.4282 and ask to speak to Major Mike Morris. If requested, we will come to your church, group meetings, or gatherings, and conduct presentations on scam awareness and prevention.”

Garcia has been charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit fraud and is being held in the Spalding County Jail.

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