Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser is warning scammers who prey on the elderly they will be caught and they will be imprisoned.
Several years ago, monetary crimes against the elderly generally were misdemeanors and often settled in civil court. A change in the law prioritized these cases and gave prosecutors like Gmoser more options.
“There was a change in the law, and when I took office there was a recognition that even a small amount of theft against an elder person would be a felony, not a misdemeanor because it raises it one step…,” he said. “That opened it up now for prosecutors across the state to say, ‘When you steal from the elderly you are looking at a felony, we are going to pay attention to that.’”
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Recently, Assistant Prosecutor Gloria Sigman, who handles elder abuse cases in Gmoser’s office, successfully prosecuted three scammers, a couple who scammed a 105-year-old grandmother out of $4,800 using a clone phone app and another man who beat up and stole from a 75-year-old woman.
The oldest victim Gmoser’s office — working with the Oxford police — has helped is 105-year-old Louis Limper. Her former caregiver Latisha Garrett and her boyfriend Eric Kleinholz scammed Limper out of $4,800, convincing her that her grandson needed the money because his car broke down in Dayton, Gmoser said.
“He (Kleinholz) downloaded an app that allowed him to use his phone, but he was able to clone another phone number, which was Miss Limper’s actual grandson’s phone number,” Oxford Detective Matt Blauvelt said. “So when Miss Limper received the phone call on her caller ID it appeared it had his (her grandson’s) phone number on it.”
Sigman said Garrett took Limper to the bank to get the cash, told Limper she would mail the money but pocketed it instead, officials said. She said Blauvelt got Kleinholz to confess to his part in the scheme.
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Kleinholz — who has been to prison before — was found guilty of identity theft and theft and was sentenced to prison for three years. This was a first offense for Garrett, but Sigman said because she was in a “position of trust,” Judge Jennifer Muench-McElfresh was able to send her to prison for 18 months on the two felony counts of telecommunications fraud and theft.
Sigman said the second case, which just concluded with a conviction last week, involved Randy Villani, 50, who attacked a 75-year-old woman and stole $1,000. Villani did some odd jobs for the victim but also convinced her to give him $300 he said was to get his sister out of jail and his mother, who lives in the same trailer park, needed groceries. Both turned out to be lies, according to Sigman.
The last time he came to her house he allegedly became violent.
“He comes through the front door, she starts to get up, he shoves her back down, he yanks the phone out of the wall, goes to her with the cord and said, ‘If you call the police I will come back and rape you and I will kill your husband,’” Sigman said.
The victim’s daughter had just given her $1,000 for bills, medicine and to fix her air conditioner. Villani took it and ran out, officials said. A jury found him guilty of aggravated burglary, robbery, aggravated menacing and disrupting public service. Villani will be sentenced next month.
Gmoser commended every police agency in the county for helping his team protect the elderly.
“They did a tremendous job on that case, I think it’s a hallmark of the Elder Abuse Task Force,” Gmoser said. “Across Butler County, every agency has a specific interest in helping the task force go after these people that prey on the elderly. That is a sea change from years ago.”