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July 2, 2022

Gullible grandma vs. determined scammer

By DeAnne Hart, of Watsonville

I return to my country home with two canisters of propane for the camp stove and lantern in anticipation of a third long dark evening without power. My husband and helper Joelle meet me at the door, pulling up a chair for me to receive bad news. They are expecting me to faint, perhaps, having endured my cancer surgery just four months ago.

“Your grandson is in jail!” 

While I was out a call came, on the only connection with the outside world during this PG&E ‘safety’ exercise, a rusty old hard-wired telephone. 

“Grandma?” a tearful young male voice ventured.

“No, this is Joelle. Who is this?”

“Don’t you recognize my voice Grandma?” he seemed to be crying.

“Jackson?”

“Yes, I’m hurt. My nose and mouth banged up. I’m in jail—a car accident—not my fault, but I was arrested. I can get out on bail, but I don’t want my dad to hear about this! Or mom! Please don’t tell anyone! Just Grandma. Tell her to call this lawyer, assigned to defend me: it’s Perry Thomas, telephone 877-445-6148…”

Joelle and my husband spoke together excitedly about $9,000 refundable bond money to be worked out with the lawyer, while I visualized my beautiful grandson with a bloody face and crooked nose. Then I dialed Perry Thomas, vaguely remembering a similar name from old TV trial dramas.

“This is DeAnne Hart, calling on behalf of my grandson Jackson Hart. Perhaps you can fill me in on what’s going on.” 

Mr. Thomas proceeded to tell me, in an accent reminiscent of gangster movies, the same thing Jackson described to Joelle—a seventh-month pregnant woman in another car had cut him off, deploying airbags in both cars, busting Jackson’s nose. It wasn’t Jackson’s fault, but he was arrested for DUI and in jail.

“I can’t really understand you,” I said, “I’m hard of hearing and this is an old phone. Where are you?” I think he said he was at the County Court House. 

“I’ll call you back with a better connection,” he said. And he did, patiently explaining that if I could wire a transfer of funds from my bank account right away, Jackson would be out of jail in two hours and would just have to appear in court tomorrow to assure my full refund. He instructed me to go to my bank and transfer $9,000 to Rosanna Marte, 30 East 208th St., Bronx, NY, 10467, Capital One Bank account #5802582171, routing #031176110.

“If the bank should ask why you’re sending a large sum, don’t tell them it’s to spring Jackson out of jail, say it’s for medical expenses for a family member,” he said.

“Sounds fishy,” I said. “I’ve been seeing news articles recently about bail money…” but I couldn’t remember exactly what they were about. “Maybe you know,” I added, “both of Jackson’s parents are lawyers.”

“Yes,” he told me. “He wants to keep this quiet—just go to your bank and arrange a wire transfer. They’ll give you a tracking number that guarantees your refund.”

As I prepared to leave the house he called bank:

“I’m glad I caught you. Rosanna is not available. Please write down this correct recipient for your fund transfer: Luis Marte, 2615 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY, 10468, Capital One Bank Account #436969033, routing #026013673.”

Nine thousand dollars, I thought, that will zero my bank account, but Jackson’s worth it. Just some youthful impropriety, too much party time and didn’t his mother tell me on the phone the other day that he planned to attend a Halloween party? 

I decided to let close friends know we wouldn’t be attending the afternoon church meeting while I went to the bank. They had sons, they would understand.

“It sounds like a scam,” Mike said. Jane and Steve concurred. “Call the jail and see if he’s there.” Helene urged me to call Jackson’s number. I had figured the police had confiscated his phone, but he answered cheerfully, in the middle of lunch. Not in jail. Not hurt from an accident.

“And Grandma,” he said, “if I do ever call from jail, please call my folks!”

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