Sunday, December 20, 2009

Six Hours And Counting....

Yesterday, I spent six hours with a woman who has been targeted by transient criminals.

They found her on Craigslist and were quite charming when they came to find out about the granny unit she had for rent behind her house.

The man was well-dressed and his girlfriend was very poised with her Sarah Palin smile. "Georgia" let them move in without a background check or even a reference check.

Credit checks are meaningless, particularly in this economy. I'm not in favor of credit checks but a background check is very easy and tells all the story someone might need to know before opening their home to a stranger. I gave Georgia my private information so that she can do a background check on me, given that she is sharing a lot of private financial information. That's the only way I can do anything is to have that info.

Before two months had passed, they had stolen two of her credit cards, gained access to her debit card PIN by claiming only that they wanted to help her and run errands for her. Georgia, being disabled and not capable of driving or getting around easily, allowed them to do it. These criminals know how to target vulnerable people. Georgia is 66 years old, has had a stroke and is isolated and depressed. I spent six hours with her and she is a very caring, good-natured and kind person.

After it was all done, Georgia was several thousand dollars in debt. Sarah Palin Smile had gone to Macy's, Target, Costco and assorted big box stores. She maxed out Georgia's cards. Her bank account was drained. Her mortgage was behind since the tenants weren't paying their rent and she nearly lost her house. If her ex-husband hadn't come along to rescue her, she would have lost everything.

When I got home and began researching Well Dressed and Sarah Palin Smile, I found extensive criminal histories on both. Well Dressed had an assortment of evictions with judgments for the landlords, burglary charges, drug possession and check fraud. Sarah Palin Smile has a case pending for identity theft. She goes to court on 1/13/10 for sentencing.

All of this information was readily available before they targeted Georgia. I found all of this free of charge on the Internet. I searched court records and general Google searches that led me from one place to another. Begin here if you want to check someone out. If you feel particularly ambitious, you can look through this database from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office which is the most comprehensive. Just click on "Transient Offenders".

It's unlikely that Georgia will ever recover any of her money. Transient criminals have multiple identities, live off the grid and judgments can't be collected.

The good thing is that I will be able to contact local law enforcement, specifically the detectives who specialize in financial fraud and elder abuse. More charges will be brought against Well Dressed and Sarah Palin Smile. It's a small consolation to see them get a bit more jail time when Georgia's life was left in shambles.

But at least it's something.

On January 13, I will be at the courthouse and will snap a picture of Sarah Palin Smile. I will post it on Craigslist, including her aliases and current address. Hopefully it will protect some other unsuspecting elderly landlord.

Doing this work really gives my life a lot of meaning, too. If I can protect even one or two elderly, vulnerable people, I'll call it Good.



~*

10 comments:

secret agent woman said...

I'll call it Great. I believe this is what is meant by "walking the walk."

I don't know if I would know how to go about finidng that information on-line, and wouldn't it be a service if places like Craig's List encouraged people to check the backgrounds of people they are going to deal with?

Leann said...

Craigslist is a cesspool of unethical people. The elderly can be much too trusting, not have access or knowledge of the internet, and no family around to keep tabs on them and make sure they are not being taken advantage of. Kudos to you for walking the walk and looking out for those who cannot on their own. I worry about my Mom every day. She just got taken for money on a virus scanner. Of course she can't get her money back. It was only $40 but to someone who lives on a fixed income, it is much too much.

Olivia said...

The elderly are so vulnerable because they trust, as it used to be safe to trust many people and it no longer is. This is so sad. It also makes me angry. I'm glad you've found a place where you can really make a difference, Chani. Love, O

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I agree with Leann about Craig's List. I have had several horrible experiences with idiots and cheats, to say nothing of flakes.

You are doing good work. When I learn to use my sewing machine, I will make you a super cape for leaping tall buildings fighting for truth, justice and the American way. :)

Anvilcloud said...

You are a force to be reckoned with.

meno said...

Good for you. Give 'em hell. They deserve it.

Laurie said...

You are making a difference, Chani...that is more than can be said for most people.

Woman in a Window said...

Holy. I can't believe the lengths that some people go to. I feel for your friend. Hope she's able to move on without too much trouble.

(I was tired of Tiger Woods before all of this...)

xo
erin

Border Explorer said...

You are my hero! Just love this post. So glad for those links. I'll come back here and get them if I ever need them. Posting them is another public service you've done. Good work, Chani!

painted maypole said...

it's so terrible, but thanks for posting so others know what to do and what to look for.