BRIDGEPORT – A 78-year-old woman from Fairfield received a call that her grandson was involved in a serious car accident and is now in jail.
The caller said he was the grandson’s attorney and could get the young man out for $22,000.
It’s a scam that authorities say is targeting older Americans at an alarming rate. Few of these scammers are ever caught, but this time was the exception.
Fairfield Police said a West Haven man, Elvis Rodriguez-Andeliz Jr., admitted not only to ripping off the Fairfield woman, but also to being involved in the scams of dozens of other elderly people in Connecticut and Massachusetts .
Rodriguez-Andeliz, 29, of Walnut Street, West Haven, was charged Friday with second-degree theft, conspiracy to second-degree theft, criminal identity theft and second-degree phone fraud.
“The defendant is accused of participating in an organized operation in which the elderly were exploited,” Deputy Assistant District Attorney Stephen Lojo told Supreme Court Justice Peter McShane during Rodriguez-Andeliz’s indictment Friday afternoon. He asked the judge to set bail high.
But the defendant’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Dennis Salzbrunn, begged the judge’s leniency, arguing that his client was cooperating with authorities. Salzbrunn then waved to a bench full of young women he said were in court to support Rodriguez-Andeliz.
“We see a lot of serious cases in this courthouse, but this is just awful,” the judge said. “He’s accused of exploiting the elderly here and has similar cases in Massachusetts.”
He ordered Rodriguez-Andeliz held in lieu of $150,000 bail and continued the case through March 20.
Police said on Dec. 22 the Fairfield woman, who lives alone, received a call from a man claiming to be her grandson, who said he was involved in a car accident and is now in jail. Another man told the woman he had been appointed her grandson’s attorney and said he could get the grandson out of jail if she gave him $15,000, police said.
Police said the woman withdrew the money from her bank account and gave it to a man who arrived at her home in a white Range Rover.
But the next day, police said the woman was contacted again by the man posing as a lawyer, who told her he needed an additional $7,000 to cover further legal costs. The woman complied and handed the cash back to a man who drove to her home.
But this time, police said the woman became suspicious of the situation and called authorities.
When the woman was contacted a third time by the “lawyer” about $15,000 in legal fees, Fairfield police were waiting outside her home. They said they caught Rodriguez-Andeliz as he left the woman’s home.
Police said Rodriguez-Andeliz initially claimed to be a misguided Uber driver but then confessed to collecting money from the victim.
But police said Rodriguez-Andeliz told officers he was just picking him up for “Andy,” who he grew up with in the Dominican Republic. He claimed Andy, who still lives in the Dominican Republic, was the mastermind behind the operation and would text him with addresses to collect money.