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Outraged police commissioner calls scam artist a 'piece of garbage'

Nassau police released an image from a home

Nassau police released an image Friday from a home surveillance camera showing a man at the front door of the home of an 81-year-old Oceanside woman who, they say, was scammed. Credit: News 12 Long Island

The man who scammed $45,000 from an Oceanside woman — claiming her son had been arrested and needed money to get out of trouble — has stolen from several other Long Islanders, outraged police and officials said Friday in doubling the reward for his arrest.  

Nassau County police said they have determined the unknown man, whose smiling image was clearly captured by the Oceanside woman's doorbell camera, has been involved in successful or attempted rip-offs of seniors on Long Island totaling more than $100,000. The reward has grown to $10,000 for information leading to the identity and arrest of the man.

“That piece of garbage — that’s what he is,” said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, his voice charged with urgency, during a news conference Friday. He added about such scam artists, “We need to take these guys out, and take them out of society and put them where they belong — in jail.”

County Executive Laura Curran and Ryder both were so angry over the financial damage to the seniors that they publicly spoke harshly about the suspect during the news conference. Police suspect the man has ripped off more seniors than they know.

Curran called the scammer a “dirtbag” and urged victims to come forward.

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” she said. “This guy, this dirtbag, came to the woman’s door. We want to make sure that every senior knows how to protect themselves, so they don’t become preyed upon.”

Curran added, “If you live next to an elderly person, check on them, talk to them, make sure they’re OK. If you see people coming up to their door who don’t look very trustworthy, or who you’ve never seen before,” check into it.

Ryder, who earlier this week reported the man’s scam against an 81-year-old Oceanside woman, detailed the other scams that police believe the man has pulled off since early this year. He scammed a Roslyn senior out of $30,000, a Great Neck senior out of more than $5,900, another Oceanside senior out of $8,430 and tried but failed to take $18,000 from a Farmingdale resident, police said.

Ryder said police have matched the suspect to the other scams through other videos and pictures and victims’ descriptions.

All of the suspect's victims have been above the age of 70, Ryder said. He typically calls them saying that a loved one has been arrested or injured, or both, and that they are desperate for money.

He is especially brazen in that he offers each time to pick up the cash at the person’s home, Ryder added.

Ryder offered his personal assurances that the police would protect the victims.

“We will support the victims, we will stand by the victims, we will protect the identity of the victims,” he said. “But they need to let us know because our investigation is starting to show there’s probably more.”

People should warn the seniors they know to be wary of anybody calling them or approaching them with a strange request for money, the officials said.

“We need to use the public’s help to track him down,” Ryder said. “We need to go viral, and we need to get him now so he can’t get away with another one of these types of scams.”

They offered to have police speak at senior centers. They urged people to install doorbells with cameras. They advised people to be careful what they post on social media, noting that identifying people in pictures with grandparents and family members can provide vital information for a scam artist.

Nassau police joined other authorities, including the state tax department, in issuing alerts on Tuesday warning residents to beware of telephone callers demanding cash for relatives or friends whom they claim have been arrested or kidnapped.

Anyone who receives such a telephone call should hang up at once and call 911, they said.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District issued similar warnings against scammers who try to extort cash or gather personal information for identity theft.

The state tax department also warned it never collects tax payments in person and that “phishing” emails requesting personal information should be deleted without ever clicking any of their links.

In his biggest known scam — the Oceanside case caught on camera — the man phoned the woman and told her that her son had been arrested after a car accident and needed $7,500 to make bail.

Once he had that money, he came back to her with another ruse, telling her that a woman in the accident had been pregnant but lost the baby, so the bail was raised to $15,000. The woman provided him with another $7,500, police said.

He returned again saying that some $30,000 was needed in medical expenses because her son and the woman were injured in the crash.

“This is disgusting what this man has done,” Ryder said.

Police showed the video of the suspect at the front door of the Oceanside woman’s house. The man, stout of build with a ball cap and eyeglasses, approaches the door and looks from side to side. When the woman answers the door and hands him cash, he responds with a thumbs up and a big smile before walking away. He was driving a dark Ford Fusion with a license plate marked with TL & C, police said.

“Speak to your moms; speak to your grandparents,” Ryder said. “Let them know that if they receive a call, the first thing you do is reach out to a family member to verify. And if you’re not sure please, call 911. That’s why we’re there, to help you.”

Anyone with information can call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.

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