A Seaford grandmother turned the tables on an alleged scammer. She told him she'd pay up — but when he arrived, he was met with an envelope stuffed with paper towels — and police. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Seaford grandmother flipped the script on a suspected scam artist, luring him into a trap set by Nassau police in a dramatic arrest captured on doorbell camera.

The Hollywood-style takedown began Thursday when Jean, a retired Nassau police 911 dispatcher, received a phone call from a man who, according to police, purported to be her grandson.

The crying caller told Jean, who asked that her last name not be used, that he'd been in a car accident, was being charged with driving under the influence and needed cash to get out of jail, she said.

Only one problem: Jean's grandchildren are still in elementary or middle school.

"I knew it was a scam," Jean, 73, said in an interview, explaining that she decided to play along, not expecting it to escalate.

Jean explains how a caller attempted to scam $8,000 from...

Jean explains how a caller attempted to scam $8,000 from her. Credit: Howard Schnapp

But it would unfold in rapid fashion, with Jean playing the role of the easily duped victim, in an account corroborated by police.

Jean said she received successive phone calls from a man purporting to be from the Nassau courts system, and later from an individual identifying himself as "Matt Levine," her fictitious grandson's attorney, who he said needed $8,000 in cash for bail.

Jean told "Levine" that she had the cash to pay a contractor performing work in her home — helping keep the suspect invested in the alleged con.

"I'm playing a game but it's getting serious now," Jean said, adding that the man knew her name, age and address.

Jean texted her daughter and best friend, who both work at the 911 call center, and alerted the Seventh Precinct, which dispatched two officers to the home.

As cops were taking a report, the would-be scammer called back several times, giving Jean instructions to put the cash in a manila envelope to give to a bail bondsman who would arrive at her home in 10 minutes, she said.

That provided police a short window to move their vehicles out of sight and for Jean to plan one last deception — stuffing the envelope with paper towels so it looked legitimate. As Jean was on the phone with one member of the alleged scam team, another man arrived at the door to collect the package.

As the man — later identified by police as Joshua Gomez, 28, of Mineola — turned around to leave, two officers barged out the front door, tackling him with the takedown captured on Jean's Ring doorbell camera. After realizing that the alleged scam had fallen apart, the man on the phone hung up.

"These individuals sit at home and have nothing better to do than to think of ways to take advantage of our elderly," said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder at a news conference Friday describing the incident.

Gomez, who has no prior arrests, is charged with third-degree attempted grand larceny, a felony. He was released on an appearance ticket and is due in court on Feb. 3. Efforts to reach him at his home Friday were not successful.

Police have not made any other arrests connected to the case.

Phone scams targeting the elderly are common, with scammers purporting to work for the IRS, Social Security, PSEG or the New York Lottery. Last year, Ryder said, there were 165 similar scams in Nassau and nine already in the first three weeks of 2022.

"I encourage anyone who gets a phone call like this to call your local police precinct," said Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly. "Let them know what's going on and together we will work to end these scammers."

At Jean's home Friday, her son Rusty credited her mother's bravery and wits.

"I'm very proud of her," he said.

Jean, meanwhile, said she's barely had time to digest the wild incident.

"I can't believe I did this," she said. "At my age I can't believe I actually told them to come to my house."

With Cecilia Dowd

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