Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Scammers Who Call Elderly Victims Claiming to be Family Members in Distress Requiring Financial Assistance

Granny Scam Victimizes Elderly Women Seeking to Help Grandchildren

(1010 WINS) - TOMS RIVER, N.J.

01/31/04 - A pregnant 26-year-old woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for pretending to be the granddaughter of sixteen elderly Ocean County women in order to allegedly swindle thousands of dollars from them.

Grace Ross pleaded guilty in December to one count of theft by deception and one count of attempted theft by deception.

She pledged to "pay back every cent" of the $10,500 she received, but Judge James N. Citta said Friday he doubted she would return the money.

He ordered that Ross serve two years before she can be considered for parole.

Ross, who is due in May, will give birth in prison after which the state Division of Youth and Family Services will take the baby.

"She was going to stay here and suck as much money out of our senior population as she could," Citta said. "The impact of targeting these elderly women and preying upon their sympathies ... is a cruel hoax that has devastated the victims."

Supervising Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Madelin Einbinder said Ross obtained the $10,500 from five victims, although she allegedly attempted to defraud 11 other people.

Prosecutors said Ross would phone the elderly women and pretend to be a granddaughter in distress.

She would claim to need money and then would say that a friend of hers would meet them at a bank or supermarket. She would then show up herself, claiming to be the granddaughter's friend.

When she was caught, Ross had a nine-page list of hundreds of elderly women with ages, addresses and phone numbers, authorities said.

"One has to wonder if she picked Ocean County because of its large senior population," Einbinder told the judge.

If not for the senior citizen who alerted police "we don't know how long the scam would have been perpetuated," she said.

Margaret Warner of Toms River told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune that Ross had swindled $4,000 from her 83-year-old mother.

"She watched my mom and dad empty out their wallets and count the change," Warner said. "They're on a very limited income ... To lose $4,000 actually hurts them. Now, they're afraid to talk to anyone."

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