DEA warns of scam targeting grandparents in Washington state

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A Whatcom County couple is thanking agents in the DEA’s Bellingham office for saving them from being ripped off in a scam targeting grandparents.

“I was just sitting there reading my Bible and the phone rang and I picked it up and he said, ‘Hi Grandpa’,” said Chuck who we are not identifying fully for his safety.

It was a thief pretending to be the 78-year-old’s grandson.

The 18-year-old impostor claimed he’d been in a car wreck in Spokane and was arrested after officers found marijuana and heroin in the vehicle.

“He sounded like an agitated teenager, like he was scared, like he was worried, so I was fairly convinced that it was actually Bo,” said Chuck.

A man impersonating an officer even got on the phone telling the grandparents they had linked the drugs and other suspects in the car to a biker gang in New York. He told Chuck and his wife, Lynne, that they were worried their grandson was going to get attacked in jail for talking to police.

“He says, 'Look, we have Bo in custody. We’re concerned about him. We know he’s not guilty.'”

The con man told them they could save his life if they just sent $15,000 for his bail. Chuck was skeptical and wished he had asked a simple question.

“All I had to do is say to Bo -- tell me your dad’s name.”

They had heard about scams going around but the fake officers had an answer for everything.

“I’m not a gullible guy. In fact, I’m kind of a concrete sequential person, and to be taken in like that really hurt me,” he said.

Chuck withdrew the money from the bank in cash and shipped it by overnight courier to the Bronx, New York.

“This package was suspicious because it contained $15,000 in cash and it was addressed to an address in New York but the name on it was a special agent with the DEA. We determined that no agent by the name on the package existed within the DEA,” said Bellingham DEA Resident Agent in Charge Steven Hummel.

Agents were able to intercept the package.

“I think in my 30 years, it was one of the most pleasant experiences I have had on this job was to return his $15,000 to him,” said Hummel.

They are still investigating the address where the package was supposed to be shipped but cases like this are difficult to prosecute.

“We did go and identify some individuals at that address but just identifying them is not enough to make an arrest,” said Hummel.

He is urging everyone to alert their elderly loved ones about these scams.

“The DEA will never call and ask you to send cash for any reason whatsoever. That’s not the way DEA or any legitimate law enforcement agency works” said Hummel.

Chuck and Lynne regret doubting the character of their grandson.

“Our grandson said, 'I forgive you, to think that you love me enough, that you were willing to pay that price for me,'” said Lynne.

They hope other families share their story.

“I believe that God is turning this around for good and if other people can learn from our mistake, to God be the glory for that,” said Lynne.

For more information and to report scams to the DEA, go to this link: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/pressreleases/extortion_scam.htm