By Brian Hews
Details have emerged from officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that shows how a woman bilked thousands of dollars from an elderly Lakewood man with dementia whom she allegedly preyed upon for the past year.
Last week, on August 30, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged 52-year old Suspect Myrta Molina, of Panorama City, with Theft from an Elder.
A warrant was issued for Molina’s arrest.
On September 4, 2013, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives took her into custody. Molina is being held on $150,000 bail, and is scheduled to be arraigned at Bellflower Court on September 5.
Captain Mike Parker, spokesman with the LASD told Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that between February 2012, and January 2013, Suspect Molina placed five personal ads in a senior citizen newsletter, seeking relationships with men over the age of 65. The newsletter is circulated widely throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties. “Each time Suspect Molina placed an ad, she used a fictitious name,” Parker said.
In January 2013, an 81-year old Lakewood man (victim) who suffers from dementia, picked up the newsletter from the Buena Park Senior Center in Orange County, and contacted Molina. They met shortly thereafter, and Molina identified herself with a false name, gave the victim a phone number which was obtained under a false name, and wore a wig altering her appearance. Each time Molina contacted the victim by phone, she dialed *67 to hide her number. Molina led the victim to believe she was in love with him, and then began asking for, and receiving, cash for various purported reasons.
In June 2013, when the victim was hospitalized for kidney failure, the victim’s daughter discovered that he had withdrawn unusually large amounts of cash from his bank in the preceding months. Bank records showed that the victim withdrew $26,000 in cash from his checking account in the first six months of 2013. Bank surveillance photos showed Molina escorting the victim to the bank to withdraw cash.
In July 2013, Molina convinced the victim to withdraw $80,000 in cash from his account at a bank in Lakewood. When the victim tried to withdraw the cash, bank employees who sensed something was wrong, refused to give it to him and notified his daughter. Suspect Molina then called the bank manager, identified herself with a false name, said she was the victim’s fiancée, and demanded that the bank give the victim $80,000 in cash. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives were able to freeze the victim’s accounts, and a criminal investigation was launched.
In August 2013, sheriff’s detectives executed a search warrant at Suspect Molina’s residence in Panorama City in the San Fernando Valley and recovered $5,300.00 in cash. During the search, detectives also uncovered evidence showing that Molina had targeted numerous elderly men during that past two years. During the investigation detectives uncovered information about men throughout Southern California who confirmed to sheriff’s detectives they had been contacted by the suspect but were suspicious of her motives and avoided her. They resided in Downey, Norwalk, Pacific Palisades, Sun Valley, Thousand Oaks, West Los Angeles, and Westlake Village.
Sheriff’s detectives believe there may be other victims and are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Christopher Derry (562-906-5418), Commercial Crimes Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Or if you wish to remain Anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website lacrimestoppers.org
Seniors are frequently the targets of financial abuse and scams. Detectives would like to remind people to use caution when meeting strangers through personal ads and internet dating sites. For more information, click on the links:
Scam Alerts – What to Know About Scams in the News (Federal Trade Commission)
Fraud Target: Senior Citizens (FBI)
Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors (National Council on Aging)
A Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse (California Attorney General , DOJ)
Preventing financial elder abuse – Whether the abuser is an outsider or a family member, here’s what to look for (ConsumerReports.org)
Are Your Parents at Risk for Financial Fraud? (AARP Blog)
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