A New Jersey man is being held without bail after state police said they thwarted a “grandparent scam” Friday that sought to get $9,500 from a Unity man, according to court papers.
A suspicious phone call was reported to troopers Thursday morning after a caller who identified himself as “Aaron Smith” claimed the Unity man’s grandson was involved in a vehicle crash in Philadelphia and needed $9,500 in bail money.
The Unity man told police he knew something was up because his grandson was with him at the time, according to court papers.
Troopers got involved and listened in on several more phone calls from individuals who claimed the Unity man’s grandson was in custody. He was instructed to place the $9,500 inside a magazine, tape up the ends and put it inside an envelope before mailing it to a Massachusetts address, according to court papers.
When the Unity man told the caller he didn’t have transportation to a post office, an “agent” was sent to pick up the money the following morning, police said.
At 10:30 a.m. Friday, Carlos D. Polanco-Rodriguez, 31, of Newark, pulled in front of the Unity house and was taken into custody after the resident received a phone call that the “agent” had arrived.
Polanco-Rodriguez told police he was contacted by a person in the Dominican Republic to travel to Unity to pick up the cash, a 5 1/2 hour drive, in exchange for $1,600, according to court papers. Troopers said they found communication regarding the scam on the suspect’s cell phone.
He was charged with conspiracy and knowledge that property is proceeds of an illegal act. He did not have an attorney listed in online court records. A September preliminary hearing is set.
The arrest was the second this month in which a Westmoreland County resident worked with police to nab someone in a bail scam. A caller requested $28,500 from a Mt. Pleasant Township woman after claiming a family member needed bail money as a result of a vehicle crash. Troopers arrested an Ohio woman who was sent to the township home as an “agent” to pick up the cash.
Such scams have been making their way around the county this year. The Federal Trade Commission warns citizens to be vigilant against this type of family emergency scam, which can come in various forms and prey on the elderly. The commission warns to not give personal information or hand over cash, gift cards or wire money. Instead, hang up and check with family members to see if the story is accurate.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .