Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the defendants were part of a criminal ring that duped an elderly California victim into believing his grandson had been arrested
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced a Philadelphia jury has found two men guilty of swindling thousands of dollars from an elderly victim through a hoax known as the “Grandparent Scam.” The case began following a complaint from the victim, who was scammed after receiving a phone call indicating his grandson needed bail money for a drunken driving arrest.
Spencer Compas, 31, and Witson Lavilette, 40, were found guilty Thursday afternoon following a four-day trial. The two men were charged following an investigation by a statewide grand jury that identified the defendants, both natives of Haiti, as scammers who took part in a nationwide fraud ring targeting elderly victims across the United States.
The investigation began following a complaint from the victim, who was scammed out of $16,600 after receiving a call indicating his grandson needed bail money for a DUI arrest. This is an example of the “Grandparent Scam” used by criminals across the country. Scammers contact elderly victims by phone and dupe them into believing their grandchildren have been arrested. The scammers seize on the fears of their victims as they urge them to send bail money or funds to cover attorneys to help free their grandchildren from custody. The California victim in this case is 79 years old.
“This is a terrible scam preying upon the fears of a vulnerable population – our senior citizens,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “One courageous victim helped us build the case tried by our prosecutors. Justice was done in this matter and let me be clear: We have zero tolerance for any scam targeting our elderly in Pennsylvania, and we’ll go after the scammers wherever they are.”
Compas and Lavilette were charged following an extensive investigation by the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section. They were each found guilty of felony counts of criminal attempt to commit theft by deception, criminal conspiracy and theft by deception. Sentencing is scheduled for June 1.
Attorney General Shapiro thanked the following law enforcement agencies for their work on this investigation: Philadelphia Police Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pennsylvania State Police, Auburn (Calif.) Police Department, Kansas City Police Department, Baton Rouge Police Department and Toledo (Iowa) Police Department.
“Our agents cooperated with law enforcement agencies from Philadelphia to Kansas to California in building this case,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “That kind of law enforcement collaboration gets scam artists off our streets and protects victims.”
This case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather Castellino of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section.