Swindlers dupe elderly victims

A group of thieves is preying on people in a flimflam that has already cost three victims a total of $30,000.

The scammers are approaching people, often the elderly, in business parking lots and asking them to either help them make change or promising them profits if they turn over large sums of cash, Richmond County Investigator Shawn Newsome said.

Investigators said this type of scam is not new and is usually done by groups that are passing through town.

"Normally what they do is blow into town and blow right out again," Investigator Newsome said.

In the incidents -- which occurred in the parking lots of Kroger and Walgreens on Wrightsboro Road and at the Augusta Exchange -- the technique and description of the suspects vary slightly.

An 82-year-old woman said she was approached June 23 at PetsMart on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway by a middle-age white woman who claimed to have 15 $1,000 bills and needed to make change in order to spend them, a sheriff's report said. The victim agreed to help and withdrew a total of $15,000 from several bank terminals around town. She met the woman in front of Borders Books several hours later, turned over the money, and waited while the woman went into the bookstore to retrieve the large bills she claimed to have. The younger woman never returned.

The same day a white woman with a similar description and a black man in his late 30s approached a 60-year-old woman at Walgreens claiming to have found an envelope full of money under her car. The man claimed to be a store employee and told the victim that if she gave them $5,000, she could get $20,000 in return. The pair took the woman's money, told her to go inside the store to collect her cut from the store's manager, then fled.

On June 29, two black women in their late 20s swindled $10,000 from a 74-year-old woman they met outside Kroger, according to a sheriff's report. They told the victim that they found $60,000 and were considering turning it over to police.

They claimed to know a lawyer who was at TJ Maxx on Wrightsboro Road and thought this person might be able to tell them what to do with the cash. All three traveled to the store, and the two young women made the victim wait while they went inside. They returned and said the lawyer told them to put together $10,000 each so they could give the sheriff's office $30,000 and split the money found, with each receiving $20,000.

After getting the money, the victim gave it to the scam operators, who then said they would be going to the sheriff's office to turn the $30,000 in to authorities. They never returned.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.