Diasporian News Mon, 30 Jan 2006

'419' Hits The Streets

... seniors robbed of cash by "Ghanaian"

A Los Angeles man charged with kidnapping after police say he pulled a weapon when a scheme claiming money in Ghana unraveled.

The man seemed legitimate with his fancy suit, wad of cash and African accent.

Victims in Carson were so enticed by the promise that he could deliver thousands of dollars to them if they helped him, they gave him rides

But when the victims became suspicious, the man in the suit dumped the con that would have bled their bank accounts and committed a simple crime: He held them up, taking the money in their pockets and watches on their wrists.

Michael Dewayne Simpson, 47, of Los Angeles was charged Jan. 17 with two counts of second-degree robbery and one count of kidnapping to commit another crime, Carson sheriff's Sgt. John Hocking said.

Investigators say he targeted two senior citizens in Carson, and could be responsible for crimes in other cities.

According to deputies, Simpson walked up to a 68-year-old man leaving a Bank of America branch at the Southbay Pavilion mall on July 26.

Neatly dressed, he explained he was from Ghana, pulled out a wad of cash, and said he had a large amount of money in his home country that he was not allowed to bring into the United States.

He explained that he was looking for someone to whom he could send half his money -- if that someone provided some collateral from his own bank account.

The plot is a fairly common scheme, police said.

Interested, the victim began talking about the transaction and agreed to drive the man to a McDonald's restaurant across the street.
A second suspect got into the car.
"The victim backed out of it, saying he did not like the way it sounded. It sounded suspicious to him," Hocking said. "When he did that, one of the suspects pulled out a handgun and both suspects robbed the victim."
A fingerprint left behind in the car eventually identified Simpson as a suspect, Hocking said.
Before detectives could find him, Simpson allegedly struck again on Jan. 8, interesting another 68-year-old man outside a seafood restaurant at Carson and Main streets with his story of Ghana riches.
The victim agreed to give him a ride to the Carson mall, and they parked behind Tony Roma's restaurant.
A second suspect arrived. Immediately, they ordered the victim to hand over his money.
In fear, the victim handed over his wallet containing $1,400.
The victim identified a photograph of Simpson as a suspect, Hocking said.
Detectives found Simpson three days later and arrested him. Simpson has pleaded guilty and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
In addition to the kidnapping and robbery charges, Simpson faces a count of elder abuse, Hocking said.
Hocking said con artists prey on trusting seniors who need to be aware of such schemes, especially those that sound too good to be true.
"Why would the suspect send the victim money for no apparent reason?" Hocking said.
"These incidents could have developed into something bad. Somebody could have been shot and killed."
Any other possible victims should call deputies at 310-830-1123.


Source: By Larry Altman for Daily Breeze