Pennsylvania Charges 4 in Grandparent Scam

Two men from Philadelphia, a woman from Abington and a man from Brooklyn were charged of scamming seniors out of money. There may be more victims.

Clockwise from top right, the four charged in the "Grandparent Scam": Witson Lavilette, 38; Kens Wesh, 38; Johanne Wesh, 37; Spencer Compas, 29

Clockwise from top right, the four charged in the “Grandparent Scam”: Witson Lavilette, 38; Kens Wesh, 38; Johanne Wesh, 37; Spencer Compas, 29

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office announced today the arrest of four individuals in a “grandparent scam.” DA Kathleen Kane says the four charged — two from Philadelphia, one from Montgomery County and one from Brooklyn — would call senior citizens and pretend to be a grandson or granddaughter in need of money.

The scammers stole at least $162,600 and are accused of attempting to take tens of thousands more. Spencer Compas and Witson Lavilette of Philadelphia, Johanne Wesh of Abington and Kens Wesh of Brooklyn were charged in the scheme.

The investigation began following a complaint from a 77-year-old man identified in the presentment as Thomas I. from California. He said he had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by a caller claiming to be an attorney for his grandson, who supposedly was arrested for a DUI in Philadelphia. The caller said the money was for bail and attorney’s fees.

After receiving $6,600 from the victim, the scammers called again and said they would need an additional $10,000. The victim then realized he had been scammed and that his grandson was never arrested.

“This swindle creates false fears among our senior citizens that their loved ones are in some kind of serious trouble and urgently need their help,” Kane said in a statement. “They then dupe these unsuspecting, well-intentioned victims into transferring money to them. These seniors just wanted to help, but all the scam artists intended to do was steal.”

The state believes there are more victims. Anyone who believes they’ve been scammed — or has been asked to send money to Philadelphia, Abington or Brooklyn — should call the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section in Norristown at 610-631-5937.

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