MADISON, Wis. - Overseas scammers tried to extort $4,100 from a couple by fabricating a story that the victims' grandson was in trouble, Madison police said.
Madison police visited with a distraught 77-year-old and 78-year-old husband and wife at a home in the 600 block Whitehall Drive on the city's far east side Tuesday after they were contacted by scammers.
Madison police said a Sgt. Robert Ableman had called the couple from the Crawford Bay Police Department in British Columbia. He talked about how the grandson had been involved in a fatal crash while visiting and $35,000 worth of drugs had been found in the trunk of the grandson's car.
The caller said that to get their grandson out of trouble, the couple should wire funds immediately to a Celia Susana Melendez in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, police said.
The grandmother inquired about why Bolivia when the crash had occurred in Canada. She was told embassies in Canada were currently closed and staff members at the Santa Cruz embassy were being utilized, according to a Madison Police Department incident report.
Before calling Madison police, the couple called their grandson at his college campus in Ohio. He was fine and was not in Canada.
Having heard their story, the investigating Madison police officer told the couple he had traveled in Bolivia, and knew there was no embassy in Santa Cruz. La Paz is home to Bolivia's U.S. Embassy.
The officer used the couple's phone to call Ableman by dialing 438-989-4105. A man answered claiming to be Ableman and the officer could hear background sounds that were similar to what one might hear inside a police department, according to the incident report.
The Madison police officer asked to speak with the Crawford Bay's officer in charge, and a Jackson Love came on the line. The Madison officer proceeded to ask Love a volley of questions pertaining to the call to the victims' home. Love ended up hanging up, police said.
The officer next determined that there is no police department in Crawford Bay, B.C. Royal Canadian Mounted Police protect the community.
The officer explained to the couple how con artists try to prey on the emotions of older citizens. He told them they were not in danger, but should have no further contact with Ableman.
Police said the officer could see the couple was visibly upset, and he reassured them that they had done everything right.
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