Over the weekend, an 82-year-old veteran called a crisis line and said he wanted to take his own life. This after police said a Florida woman and her boyfriend scammed the man out of his life savings to fuel their drug habit.
Police in Deland, Florida said Jessica Henry, 31, and Gregory Dushan, 28, scammed more than $50,000, along with property, from the U.S. Coast Guard veteran. According to a press release from police, the couple spent more than $500 of the money on drugs daily.
The crisis center immediately called police after they said the 82-year-old victim called the Veterans Crisis Center and said his bank account had a negative balance and he felt the only solution was to end his life.
The victim hasn’t been identified. But police said he told them he first met Henry about three years ago and started giving her money after she claimed she wasn’t able to feed her children and didn’t have transportation to take them to school.
Six months ago, she allegedly contacted the victim again six months ago, claiming she needed $350 a day to pay for urine tests as part of her probation for a recent arrest.
Her boyfriend, Dushan, pretended to be Henry’s probation officer and also called the victim daily to demand between $150 and $1,000.
Police say Dushan threated to seize the victim’s car and throw him in jail if the demands weren’t met, and so the veteran eventually gave his car to Dushan.
Police said they have since gotten the vehicle back.
On top of that, police say the victim advised detectives that he received death threats prior to the Dushan’s arrest Wednesday advising that he needed to drop the charges on Henry or he would be killed in a half-hour.
The two are now charged with exploiting an elderly person between amounts of $20,000 and $100,000. Dushan faces separate charges of impersonating a correction/probation officer, and police say the couple could face more charges.
Deland police told local media the department is looking into ways to help the 82-year-old, who has been unable to pay his rent because of the incident.
Both suspects remain in custody at the Volusia County Branch Jail.
It’s not the first such story in recent weeks.
A lawsuit filed by the Indiana Attorney General’s office last month accuses a woman of scamming a Kokomo Air Force veteran out of $134,665.
According to the lawsuit, Jim Carter was a disabled veteran living in Kokomo when he was approached by Patsy Liali, a former co-worker at the City of Kokomo Planning Commission.
Prosecutors say Patsy Liali told Carter that her son, Mario Liali, was attending college at Ivy Tech and needed help with his student loans.
They say between early 2013 until September 2015, they asked Carter for money ranging in amounts from $100 to $1,000.
Here’s how it worked.
Apparently the mother and son showed Carter dozens of emails claiming to be from the U.S. Department of Education and other student loan servicers such as Bancorp… but according to records, Mario Liali had not attended Ivy Tech since 2012 and the emails were fake.
According to the lawsuit, the Lialis schemed Carter out of $134,665.
“It’s a large amount of money from one specific person”.
That was from Betsy DeNardi, director of consumer protection with the Indiana Attorney General.
“We often have cases where a person has lost a few hundred dollars, but this is the most recent instance where one person has lost a significant amount of money.”
According to Carter’s son Adam, the scam broke his father financially and caused him a significant amount of stress… leading him to die on Sept. 30, 2015 at the age of 68.
“I think my father would be alive today if this hadn’t happened,” Adam Carter said. “His house was in foreclosure, his most prized possessions were in the pawn shop. I think it just destroyed him.”
The Attorney General’s office said the Lialis spent the money on themselves and in doing so, violated the Senior Consumer Protection Act.
Now prosecutors are asking a judge to stop the Lialis from obtaining any assets or property from anyone age 60 years of age or older.
They also are demanding restitution for Carter’s estate totaling $403,995, which represents three times the actual damages Carter incurred.
The Indiana Attorney General’s office says be careful who you are kind to… and never expect to see the money back.
“Anybody can be defrauded out of money by someone they know,” DeNardi said. “People in Indiana and the Midwest are more likely to trust people that you know. This can happen to someone who is 32 years old and this can happen to someone who is 82 years old.”
Adam Carter hopes this lawsuit helps prevent something similar from happening to others.
“You just have to be vigilant,” Carter said. “I think this was something my father wanted to hide, and he was a little embarrassed this was happening.”