Southampton Town police have arrested a Brooklyn man for allegedly scamming senior citizens by impersonating a police officer over the phone and telling the people they needed to pay thousands of dollars to bail out a jailed relative.
The arrest marks the latest in a spate of these phone scams, many of them targeting senior citizens on Long Island.
Thomas A. Figuero-Aquino, 25, called and convinced a Hampton Bays woman to pay several thousand dollars Thursday, said Lt. Susan Ralph. The woman paid the money to a courier sent to her home, she said.
On Friday, Figuero-Aquino called again and said an even larger amount of money was needed, Ralph said. The woman contacted her family who told her she had been scammed, she said.
She also contacted the police, and detectives arrested Figuero-Aquino Friday, Ralph said.
He was charged with first-degree scheme to defraud and two counts of third-degree grand larceny, police said. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Saturday and remains in custody with a bond of $1 million, police said.
Further investigation revealed that Figuero-Aquino had scammed another couple in the area out of $10,000, Ralph said. Police were able to determine the location of that money and returned it to the couple, she said.
The money of the latest victim was not found, and she was not reimbursed, police said.
"People's lifelong savings are being taken in days," Ralph said. "The police have to do something about it."
She said Southampton Town police will be visiting senior centers to educate the residents about these scams. She noted that the police do not contact people directly for bail money, do not request cash and do not send couriers to retrieve money. She asked any additional victims of such scams to contact the Southampton Town police at 631-728-3400.
Authorities across Long Island have issued numerous warnings in recent months about phone fraudsters, email scammers and other con artists who try to swindle senior citizens and other residents.
On Wednesday, Suffolk Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said a Melville man told investigators he had received a call Tuesday from a person impersonating a cop, who instructed him to pay an outstanding criminal warrant. When a second person called the Melville man, a legitimate number from the Second Precinct popped up on the caller ID, he said.
Nassau police say they received 138 reports of scams against the elderly last year, a 62 percent increase over 2017.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder have kicked off a series of public forums intended to educate seniors on how to protect themselves from these rip-off artists.
In another case, Nassau detectives say they are seeking someone who scammed a 92-year-old Massapequa resident out of nearly $130,000 by convincing him on three occasions this month that money had been mistakenly deposited into his account and needed to be returned.
Earlier this month, Nassau County police announced the arrest of two people who they say convinced a Plainview man that he had won $5.7 million from the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. But in the end, the man, who is 79, lost more than $147,000, police said.