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N4T Investigators: Repair ruse - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Repair ruse

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Tucson - "I have cancer and it's not curable. I have multiple myeloma, my blood is eating my bones."   

She is a 74-year old widow and Pima County resident. Besides having cancer, she recently lost $4,000 to scammers. We are not identifying her for her safety.

"I could have used that money to pay for my chemo," she told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

It began with a call on July 31 to the woman's cell phone. "He said, 'Hey how are you, don't you know who this is?'" And I said, "Who is this, Carol?" The caller replied, "Well of course, who do you think it is?"

Her close friend Carol has a deep voice, and the victim thought it was Carol on the phone. The caller she thought was Carol said her car had broken down and she needed $2,000 to fix it. That later increased to$4,000. The victim withdrew the cash and as instructed brought it to the MPG repair shop on West Grant Road. 

MPG employee A.J. Lopez said he recognized it was a con job because the scammers have sent about a dozen intended victims there during the past year, apparently to get them in the neighborhood where they could watch them. Of course, their friend's cars were never there. Police say Lopez did the right thing. 

"It does make me feel very angry that they're targeting our location and putting such a damper on it for no reason," Lopez said.  

After the garage employee called police, the scammer called the victim, this time pretending to be a police detective. He said he had the con artist under surveillance, and to do what he says. The scammer then told the woman, who was in her car with her caregiver, to drop the envelope containing the cash over a fence at a designated location. Police say the caregiver is not a suspect. And remember, both women thought police were watching from nearby. So the caregiver did just that, she dropped the cash over the fence.  Hours later, when the elderly woman hadn't heard from police, she knew she'd been scammed out of the $4000. 

"I'm an intelligent person, at least I used to be before I got sick," the victim said, "And I'm thinking, 'How could you be so dumb?' I'm very embarrassed."

Tucson Police Detective Jeff Van Norman is in charge of the investigation. He told us there have been about a dozen cases like this since 2014. "These guys are bad guys 24/7, 365,"  Van Norman said. "They will call somebody, and the first thing they will do is say, 'Do you know who this is?' And the victims will usually try to be very helpful and say, 'OK, I know who this is,' and they'll throw out a name." 

We asked Det. Van Norman if he has any suspects or persons of interest. "We have some people that we're looking at, yeah," he said. 

The detective said if you get one of these calls from someone claiming to be a family member or friend saying their car has broken down, hang up immediately and call the police. If the scammer guesses the name of one of your friends or relatives, call that person to ask if he or she did call you. 

The elderly victim, in this case, said if she could talk to the scammer, she would tell him to, "Get a [real] job."

If you have any story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line, 520-955-4444.

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