‘Bored grandma 1, bad guy 0’ muses a Long Island grandma who outsmarted a pack of elder scam artistes, luring them into a police dragnet
Identified only a Jean, the 73-year-old set up a sting for hoaxers who pretended to be her grandson in custody, then sent fake bail bondsman to collect the anticipated loot before cops pounced on him
Man called Jean, claiming he was her grandson and needed money for bail after being involved in a DUI crash
Jean knew saw through the lie because all her 7 grandchildren grandchildren are either in elementary or middle school
Jean also got calls from two other men pretending to be her bogus grandson’s lawyer and bail bondsman
Doorcam footage shows suspect Joshua Estrella Gomez, 28, arrive at Jean’s home to collect $8,000 for bail after posing as a bondsman
As Gomez turns around to leave with ‘sting ransome’ envelope stuffed with paper towels instead of cash, two police officers jump out and arrest him
Gomez, from Mineola, was charged Thursday with attempted grand larceny
A quick-thinking grandmother from Long Island turned the tables on a suspected elder scammer after he called her up last week and pretended to be her grandson in desperate need of bail money following a DUI arrest.
The woman, who identified herself as Jean, from Seaford, New York, saw right through the ruse.
‘He starts calling me “grandma,” and then I’m like, I don’t have a grandson that drives, so I knew it was a scam,’ Jean told CBS New York.
Instead of hanging up on the fraudster, Jean, a retired 911 operator decided to play along and lure him into a trap.
Video recorded by a doorbell camera captured the dramatic outcome of Jean’s ploy, showing two Nassau County police officers tackling the suspected swindler to the ground as he turned to leave, carrying an envelope stuffed with cut-up paper towels instead of $8,000 in bail money.
The Nassau County Police Department has identified the suspect as Joshua Estrella Gomez, 28, from Mineola, who was arrested on Thursday on a charge of attempted grand larceny.
Gomez was released on a an appearance ticket and is due back in court on February 3.
According to the authorities, the incident began unfolding on Thursday morning, when the would-be victim, Jean, received a call from a man claiming to be her grandson.
The caller told his ‘grandmother’ that he was driving while intoxicated and was involved in an accident in which a woman was hurt, resulting in his arrest.
However, all of Jean’s seven grandchildren are either in elementary or middle school, and none of them drives.
A short time later, Jean received a second call from another male caller claiming to be her grandson’s lawyer, Matt Levine, and asking her for $8,000 towards her jailed grandson’s bail bond.
This was followed by a call from a third man identifying himself as the mythical grandson’s bail bondsman, who infirmed her that he was in the area of her home in Seaford to collect the bail money.
‘I told him I had the money in the house, and I figured, he’s not going to fall for that. Well, he fell for that hook, line and sinker,’ Jean told CBS New York with a laugh.
Jean quickly contacted the police and reported the scam.
By the time Gomez arrived at the woman’s home to pick up the bail money, two officers were waiting for him inside
Ring video shows Gomez, dressed in a tan coat, a beanie hat and a facemask, show up on Jean’s doorstep, where she hands him a yellow envelope stuffed with paper towels.
The doorcam footage captures the moment the unsuspecting swindler turns around to leave with his loot, at which point a pair of uniformed officers emerge from their hiding place, tackle him to the ground and pin him down on Jean’s lawn, with the homeowner watching the drama unfold from her porch.
In retrospect, Jean said she does not know what prompted her to engage with the scammer and invite him over to her house, instead of hanging up the phone like she has done many times before.
‘Bored grandma 1, bad guy 0,’ Jean told NBC New York with a chuckle.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder praised Jean during a press conference on Friday, quipping that she should be deputized as a commissioner.
‘These individuals sit at home and have nothing better to do than to think of ways to take advantage of our elderly,’ Ryder said of criminal preying on the elderly.
Jean’s son said he is proud of his mother for helping take down a criminal, although he would have preferred if she hung up, instead of going through with her subterfuge.
‘I was playing a game, it was entertaining,’ Jean said. ‘I didn’t think it was really going to happen. I thought the guy would catch me in a lie. Obviously, I was pretty good because he believed me.’
Phone scams targeting the elderly are common, with scammers purporting to work for the IRS, Social Security, PSEG or the New York Lottery. Last year, Ryder said, there were 165 similar scams in Nassau and nine already in the first three weeks of 2022.
Jean is advising to be alert to these type of scams: “I feel like gotcha, and I feel like, like you say, so many people fall for this and you only hear about it on the other end after they’ve lost $8,000,” she said.
She hopes her story will serve as a cautionary tale for others and is glad no one was hurt in the process.
While everything turned out OK for Jean, police say if you suspect a scammer, be sure to call the police first before arranging a rendezvous.