A Winnipeg investigation into a telephone ruse targeting seniors — known as the "granny scam" — has led to charges against two people in Ontario, police announced Friday.
Johnnathan Campbell Hunter, 34, was arrested Oct. 26 and charged with six counts of fraud over $5,000 and 27 counts of fraud under $5,000. Nadia Roubos, 23, who was arrested Oct. 4, was charged with one count of fraud over $5,000.
Police did not say where in Ontario the two are from or where the arrests took place.
'They are very convincing.' — Winnipeg police Cst. Natalie Aitken
"They are very convincing," Cst. Natalie Aitken, a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg police, told CBC news about the perpetrators of the con. "They will phone, and they will portray themselves to be a long lost grand daughter or grandson and usually in need of some type of financial distress. Either they're in jail sometimes and need money to get out, or they've suffered some hardship with respect to travelling and vehicle breakdowns."
Claimed to be in jail or other trouble
According to Aitken, the scam was first reported in Winnipeg in November 2009, and subsequent cases followed a familiar pattern.
The scammers would call an elderly person claiming to be his or her grandchild or niece or nephew and asking for financial help.
"The suspects claimed that they were in jail or that they had some other critical emergency requiring money," police explained in a media release.
The supposed relative would implore the senior not to tell anyone about the situation to avoid family embarrassment.
"In some instances, another person pretending to be a lawyer talks to the victim," police noted.
Arrangements would then be made to send money, usually a wire transfer, to the caller.
Police said the callers have bilked Winnipeg residents out of more than $80,000 since 2009 and possibly twice that amount.
90-year-old gave scammer $2K for car repairs
"I think he's a dirty rotten bastard if you want me to give it to you outright," Reg Honeyborne, 90, told CBC News about his encounter with a fraud artist.
Honeyborne's experience, which is not related to the arrests announced Friday, occurred in 2009 when a supposed nephew called out of the blue claiming he was in Winnipeg and needed help.
Honeyborne met the man at a coffee shop and was told a story about how the "nephew" had driven to Winnipeg from Toronto and his vehicle had broken down.
Honeyborne said he did what many relatives would do and gave the man $2,000 for repairs.
"I admire the guy in a way," Honeyborne said. "Because he's so good at his [con] job."
Honeyborne realized he had been had when he called his actual nephew a few days later to see how things had turned out.
The Winnipeg police investigation into the phone scams led to Ontario and involved that city's fraud squad and officers from the Peel Regional Police.
Police said the people who fell victim to Hunter and Roubos had been notified.
Honeyborne said he is trying to forget what happened to him and doubts he'll get his money back.