A trio of alleged criminals are facing time behind prison bars after they scammed an 88-year-old woman into giving them over $10,000 in cash last year, according to authorities.
Juanita Lamb, 57, of Engelwood, New Jersey; Deanna Rhett, 59, of Manhattan, and Donna E. Saunders, 60, of the Bronx were arraigned Tuesday on an indictment charging them with third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, on Aug. 1, 2015 at about 1:30 p.m. the victim was approached by Saunders, who started a conversation with her at the intersection of 77th Street and 31st Avenue in Jackson Heights.
While they were talking, the two were then allegedly approached by Rhett who showed the elderly victim a purse filled with what appeared to be $100,000 in cash, authorities said. Rhett then said she found the purse on the floor and was willing to share the money if the victim helped pay the taxes to it.
The third woman, Lamb, then allegedly approached them in a Buick car, offered the victim a ride home and the four women agreed to meet on Aug. 3, 2015 to pay the taxes and share the money, prosecutors said.
The 88-year-old was allegedly picked up two days at her Queens home and taken to the Queens County Savings Bank, where she went in alone, according to authorities, and withdrew $10,300 to pay the taxes.
Once she got back in the car, the victim handed the money to Rhett and then the three women drove the victim back to her home to get proof of address, prosecutors said.
When the victim came back out of her home, the three women and the car were gone.
Members of the NYPD’s Organized Theft Squad later stopped the women’s car and allegedly discovered $3,100 from the floor of the driver’s seat, $4,100 from the floor of the front passenger seat, and $3,100 from Saunders’ waistband.
According to authorities, police also found an collection of wigs in various colors and various pieces of paper that looked like $100 bills but instead had the words “for theatrical use” on them.
“There are many variations of the ‘found money’ scam. In this particular case, the defendants are accused of approaching their victim with a purse full of ‘found’ cash and offering to share the money with her – if she helped them with paying the taxes on the money,” Brown said. “Such scammers often target older people because they often live alone, away from friends and family, and have available financial assets, such as savings, pensions and social security retirement benefits.”
If convicted on the charges, the women face up to seven years in prison.