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Arrests Made in International 'Granny Scam' Targeting Local Seniors

Authorities arrest six people accused of duping Orange County residents into believing their grandchildren were in danger in foreign lands and needed cash.

LOS ALAMITOS, CA -- A Canadian man accused of a scheme to dupe local grandparents into believing their grandchildren or other relatives were in danger in foreign countries and needed money immediately was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport, the FBI announced Friday.

Pascal Goyer, 29, was taken into custody late Thursday afternoon after his flight landed from Mexico, authorities said. Goyer is suspected of duping seniors in Orange County, including Mission Viejo, Newport Beach and Irvine. This ploy, popular among scammers, has also been repeatedly reported in Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Laguna Woods.

This type of fraud targeting seniors is increasingly popular among scammers, said Laura Eimiller, FBI spokeswoman.

Goyer, whose last known residence was Montreal, is one of a half-dozen people named in a Sept. 25 federal grand jury indictment charging them with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud and aiding and abetting. He was expected to make an initial court appearance later Friday in downtown Los Angeles.

The 23-count indictment alleges that Goyer and five other defendants contacted numerous grandparents and falsely claimed they needed money to be sent to resolve a relative's purported problem, such as a car accident, in which bail money or repair expenses were immediately needed. The defendants -- who had no actual association with the relatives -- allegedly instructed the grandparents to use wire transfers, according to the indictment.

In some cases, the alleged victims were contacted again to send additional money to fully resolve their relative's problem, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that wire transfers were sent from victims in cities such as Newport Beach, Mission Viejo and Irvine. The transfers involved amounts ranging from $1,000 to nearly $3,000, according to the indictment.

Investigators said the alleged victims were identified through mass-produced lead lists that targeted a specific demographic, authorities said.

The key is to educate the targeted community, said Eimiller. The No. 1 thing they should do before sending money to help a relative is to call the relative or other family members to verify their grandchild really is out of the country, she said. The ploy only works if they don’t verify, and the scammers try to convince the victims to keep it a secret by pretending to be embarrassed or scared, Eimiller said.

The charges stem from an ongoing joint investigation by multiple agencies in the United States and Canada that participate in Project Colt, a binational task force dedicated to combating cross-border and mass marketing fraud, officials said.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Local law enforcement has been grappling with the scam increasingly over the last few years.

“People take advantage of our elderly population," Seal Beach police Sgt. Steve Bowles said following a recent case in which a Leisure World woman was victimized. "They call and say, ‘Grandma, I am in jail,' or 'I am stuck on the side of the road. Can you wire me money?’ ”

“We call it the grandson scheme,” said Seal Beach Detective Joe Hardin. “They call and wait for the victim to volunteer information. It’s called fishing. Unless you initiate the phone call, don’t give out any information. Ask the grandchild to identify themselves before you say their name.”

One woman wired a large sum of money to a man she thought was her grandson, said Hardin. “She saw him three days later at a function and asked him if everything was OK. For a while, she thought, ‘I helped him, and now my grandson is being very rude.’ After a bit, they figured out what happened.”

The money is sent by wire to places such as Texas or Canada, but it can be collected from locations such as New York without having to provide much identification, making it very difficult to catch the scammers, said Hardin.

“We probably only get a small percentage of what goes on in Leisure World fraud-wise,” said Hardin. “People either don’t know they have been taken advantage of, or they are too embarrassed to come forward.”

- City News Service contributed to this report.

MinorMother October 27, 2012 at 03:28 PM
This just happened to my family yesterday. How do they find out this information about our families?! Educate the elderly!
Roy Reynolds October 27, 2012 at 04:43 PM
So now let's get Rachel from Cardholder Services.
henry eroh October 27, 2012 at 06:39 PM
cut their tongue's out then they won't be able to use the phone- there needs to be more harsher punishmentto thieves like this- no fine- no jail just a bullet
TJ October 27, 2012 at 08:31 PM
How about cutting their balls off and wiring them to to their families as a holiday gift? Tell their parents it's just a little token of society's appreciation for them rasing such a piece of s**t.
Mona Taplin October 27, 2012 at 09:32 PM
We got a call like that a few months back. My husband doesn't recognize voices on the phone and nearly fell for it till I got on the line and told him it was a scam. I wish with all my heart that I had agreed to send the money and let the thugs sit there and wait for money that was never going to arrive. We all have to be very careful about what we sign up for, because lots of those "free" things we see on the internet sell our names and phone numbers to anyone who wants them.
Jeramiah Johnson October 27, 2012 at 10:40 PM
since i think hanging is too good for them who is for boiling them in oil.
Beach mom October 28, 2012 at 03:50 AM
This happened to my elderly mother, I wrote a report to the HB polic, and they bounced it back to me. No action needed. It was terrifying for all of us until we could locate my niece.
Joker Joe October 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
H.B. police would never do that!
Judicator Aldaris July 23, 2013 at 11:16 AM
I believe that the proper punishment for such a scumbag is to have the deceiving tongue ripped out of his scheming head. Anything less would be inappropriate and would simply embolden him to do it again.

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