Johnny Lee Palmer, 25, and John Tyler Pla, 25, both of Tampa, FL, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Attorney information was not available at the time of writing.
According to the indictment, the defendants are accused of conspiring together to orchestrate a “grandparent scam” on senior citizens in Northeast Ohio. A “grandparent scam” refers to a con where a scammer calls an elderly victim and claims to be a relative, such as a grandson or an attorney for the relative, and informs the victim that he or she has been arrested and needs bail money.
The indictment accuses both defendants of running such a scam from July 2020 to August 2020. In one case reported on August 26, the pair allegedly scammed an 83-year-old Santa Clara resident out of a large amount of money by pretending to be her grandson. The “grandson” purportedly told the victim he had been responsible for a bad accident and required legal help. A second person got on the phone and claimed to be the grandson’s public defender, saying the grandson required thousands of dollars to pay the court to get out of trouble.
The duo allegedly convinced the grandmother into going to the bank to get the cash, but when she said she couldn’t go to a bail bonds office in Cleveland, they offered to send a courier to her residence and pick up the money in person. They reportedly drove to her residence in a U-Haul truck, collected the cash, and then drove away. They warned the victim not to tell anyone about the transaction because there was a gag order on the case that could get her into trouble, according to court documents.
The grandmother informed the police about the incident and they were able to identify the U-Haul truck via surveillance video from outside her home. They sent out the information to local departments in the area. Three days later, detectives received a tip about a U-Haul truck matching the description, which ultimately led to the two scammers’ arrest. Investigators believe the pair victimized seniors in at least 10 Northeast Ohio cases. In total, the indictment estimates that the victims suffered a cumulative loss of $383,932.
“Protecting our district’s elderly and vulnerable populations from scammers and fraudsters is an important part of the work we do every day at the Justice Department,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Manipulating and exploiting our district’s elderly in any way, for any reason, will be met with swift prosecution.”
The Department of Justice has handled hundreds of criminal and civil cases that targeted seniors since soon-to-be former President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law. Anyone who knows a senior citizen who has been the victim of financial fraud is encouraged to call the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11.
Fraud is a serious offense with severe penalties. Anyone suspected of committing fraud in Florida should immediately consult an experienced South Florida fraud defense attorney. A good attorney can advise you on the next step to take and protect your rights.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney