ROCHESTER – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two suspects in connection with a scam involving securing cash bail money from elderly victims.
The suspects are believed to be involved in similar recent cases, including those being investigated in Genesee and Erie counties, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies are working with the FBI on the investigations as it is believed that the suspects are involved in similar incidents in other states, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The scams, which started in late March in the Rochester area, begin when the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be a relative in need of bail money. A person posing as an attorney or police officer then joins the call – or follows up with a separate call – and directs the victim to go to their bank and withdraw large amounts of cash to be used as bail to secure their relative’s release, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The caller may claim that their phone was broke during the accident to explain why they are calling on a private number, or one that is unfamiliar to the victim.
While this has been a common, long-time scam, what comes next has heightened concern among law enforcement. An individual – the Sheriff’s Office calls them a “courier” – arrives at the victim’s home to collect the cash, which the victim may have been instructed to leave on the porch. Frequently the victims are directed to make multiple cash payments before they become aware of the scam.
Jamel J. Aciego, 18, and Victor A. Lopez, 20, both of Miami, Fla., were charged Thursday by Monroe County deputies with second-degree attempted grand larceny, a class D felony; and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Since March 22, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has investigated five bail scams occurring within Monroe County. The scams have stolen, or have attempted to seal, a total of $106,400.
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and City of Batavia Police Department both issued releases last week warning residents of such scams.
The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office said last week that it had received reports of at least three such incidents, two in which money was exchanged and a third that was thwarted by family members who were aware of such scams. Batavia Police said they were investigating a similar scam.
On April 29, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office receive a report of a bail scam and investigators conducted surveillance. The elderly victim was directed to secure $13,500 in cash to get her son released from jail in Florida. Two suspects arrived at the victim’s home in Perinton about 3:30 p.m. to collect the money.
One suspect, later identified as Aciego, exited the vehicle and rang the doorbell. After failing to make contact with the victim, he walked away from the residence where he was confronted by sheriff’s deputies. Aciego resisted arrest and was taken into custody, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The other suspect, identified as Lopez, fled in the vehicle, ran through a stop sign, and later crashed into a swamp on the north side of Fellows and Penfield roads. He was taken into custody without further incident.
Lopez suffered minor injuries from the crash and treated at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, before being released back into the custody of the Sheriff’s Office.
Aciego and Lopez were arraigned before a judge, issued appearance tickets, and released.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is witholding the suspects’ mugshots as the investigation is ongoing.
In the Genesee County incidents, law enforcement officials say the scam may involve as many as four people. The team of scammers is known to operate a white sedan, possibly a Kia, and a black sedan or SUV. The involved scammers in the Batavia incident include a female, a smaller build young-looking black male, a heavy-set white male, and a younger average-sized white male with dark hair.
Anyone who was in the area of Ellicott and Williams streets in Batavia on April 20 about noon and on April 21 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and who may have seen the suspects of their vehicles can call Detective Jason Ivison at (585) 345-6312 or (585) 345-6350.
One of the suspects in the April 21 case was described as a skinny white male with shoulder-length, dirty-blond hair and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black frayed jeans and driving a while, box-style van.
The scammers are targeting the elderly and police are warning people to “remain aware and be suspect of phone calls you may receive from unknown sources.”
Anyone who has information about the scams in Genesee County or has received similar calls can contact police at (585) 343-5000 or call 911.