Georgia women accused of nationwide ‘grandparent scam’ conspiracy

Prosecutors say that two Georgians and three other people were traveling the country to run what’s known as the Grandparent Scam. Posing as attorneys or officials, the group would phone elderly people and tell them that a relative was in trouble and needed cash. Victims sent thousands of dollars, some pulling out life savings, according to court documents.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Prosecutors say that two Georgians and three other people were traveling the country to run what’s known as the Grandparent Scam. Posing as attorneys or officials, the group would phone elderly people and tell them that a relative was in trouble and needed cash. Victims sent thousands of dollars, some pulling out life savings, according to court documents. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Credit: Mark Lennihan

Credit: Mark Lennihan

A car with Georgia license plates drove past the Indianapolis house several times, circling back and around until, eventually, it stopped.

The driver went to the porch, took a package, and drove off. She and her passenger didn’t get far. A police officer who had been watching the house stopped them.

While the women claimed it was porch piracy, a spur-of-the-moment temptation, detectives say they eventually uncovered something much worse: a nationwide criminal conspiracy.

Prosecutors say the two Georgians and three other people were traveling the country to run what’s known as the Grandparent Scam. Posing as attorneys, police officers or other officials, the group would phone elderly people and tell them that a relative was in trouble and needed cash. Victims sent thousands of dollars, some pulling out life savings, according to court documents.

Such scams surged during the pandemic. Last year, more than 25,000 such imposter scams targeting seniors were reported, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That’s a record, and about 5,000 more than were reported in 2019.

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Now, the five people are facing federal criminal charges including mail fraud and money laundering. Accused are Jennifer Glemeau, 28, of Marietta, and Princess Elizer, 30, of Dallas, Georgia. They could not be reached for comment, and court records don’t indicate if they yet have legal representation. According to court documents, the two told police they were real estate investors and had been in Indianapolis looking for properties to buy.

Also charged are Darlens Renard, 31, of North Lauderdale, Fla.,; Jasaun Pope, 30, of Valley Stream, NY., and Kareem Brown, 30, of North Baldwin, NY.

All five had lived in the Nassau County area of New York, public records show.

A recently unsealed criminal complaint describes Renard, also known as “Los,” and Pope, known as “Bizz,” as running the teams. Others would scout out unoccupied residences where overnight packages with cash could be sent and do the pickups. The conspirators would then split the proceeds.

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Renard and Pope rewarded the others for identifying greater numbers of viable addresses, and threatened punishment if packages were lost to police or homeowners, federal prosecutors allege.

The five reportedly traveled to at least 10 cities throughout the United States to carry out the fraud, typically spending about a week in one city before moving to another. Besides Indianapolis, prosecutors say they traveled to cities in Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Ohio.

Indianapolis police were alerted after the group tried to hit up an 81-year-old Massachusetts woman for a third time. She had sent $9,000 after being told her grandniece was in an accident and needed the money for her medical care and legal assistance. She sent another $9,000 when she was told more money was needed. Shortly after that, she heard from her grandniece, realized she had been scammed and contacted police. Officers had her send a package filled with magazines to the Indianapolis house, where the Georgia women picked it up, the criminal complaint says.

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When police searched the AirBnB where the women were staying, they found other packages full of cash, according to the court records. They also found crumpled lists of addresses, which led to additional victims.

Among those bilked was an 86-year-old told that his grandson, who was out of the country, had damaged property and needed $7,000 to fix it. An 82-year-old sent two packages — one with $7,500 and another with $5,000 — after being told her daughter had been in an accident and was in trouble because a firearm was found in her car.

“She was also told there was a ‘gag order’ in place, which subsequent investigation showed was an effort by the scammers to prevent victims from talking with others about the scam,” the court document says.

An 80-year-old in New York believed he was sending $16,000 to pay a bondsman for his grandson. A 76-year-old from Michigan sent $14,000, thinking he was helping a nephew who needed it for hospital bills. Then he was called repeatedly by someone purporting to be an attorney, and eventually sent more cash, totaling $70,000, to addresses in Florida, Ohio and Indiana.

The scheme dates back to at least April 2020 and continued into this year, according to the Justice Department. So far, the victims that have been identified have lost more than $350,000.

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