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Undercover sting nets Philly men charged with 'grandparent' scam

Two Philadelphia men are among a group of four suspects charged with defrauding 11 senior citizens from as far away as Texas and California of more than $160,000, the Attorney General's office announced today.

Spencer Compas, 29, and Witson Lavilette, 38. Credit: AG's Office Spencer Compas, 29, and Witson Lavilette, 38. Credit: AG's Office

Two Philadelphia men are among a group of four suspects charged with defrauding 11 senior citizens from as far away as Texas and California of more than $160,000, the Attorney General's office announced today.

Spencer Compas, 29, of Grays Ferry, and Witson Lavilette, 38, of North Philly, are charged along with Johanne Wesh, 37, of Abington, Pa., and Kens Wesh, 38, of Brooklyn, New York, in the scam, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced today. All were arrested Wednesday except Kens Wesh, who is being sought currently in New York City.

The so-called "grandparent" scam involves the alleged scammer calling a senior citizen, and purporting to be an attorney on behalf of their grandchild, who they tell the senior citizen urgently needs funds.

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The fraud was discovered after a 77-year-old man was contacted by a caller claiming to be an attorney representing his son in a DUI case in Philadelphia and requesting $6,600 for bail and attorney's fees, according to the AG's office.

After the victim sent the funds, the same caller requested an additional $10,000, at which point the victim realized he had been scammed, that his grandson had never been arrested, and contacted law enforcement, the Attorney General said.

Law enforcement assisted in devising an undercover sting: they had the victim request to send the $10,000 via UPS, with an undercover law enforcement agent posing as the UPS carrier.

The alleged scammers gave the victim a Philadelphia address on West Albanus Street. When the agent arrived on Dec. 11, 2013 with a package purported to contain $10,000, Compas allegedly answered the door.

Compas later told authorities that he had been recruited by Lavilette, who was working with Kens Wesh and his sister Johane Wesh.

"Senior citizens are all too often targeted by con-artists," Attorney General Kane said in a statement. "Today’s arrests should be a loud and clear notice that if you try to victimize our senior citizens you are going to pay a steep price."

Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by this scam is urged to callthe Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Section in Norristown at 610-631-5937.

Read the Attorney General's presentment to the grand juryhere.

Click to to read the criminal complaints against Lavilette, Compas, Kens Wesh and Johane Wesh.

 
 
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