Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser recognized Middletown police Detective Steve Winters and Hamilton police Detective John Habig for their tireless work prosecuting scammers and thefts from the elderly. Gmoser called it the silent second epidemic in Butler County. The detectives were recognized Tuesday at the Prosecutor’s Office. From left, Hamilton police Chief Craig Bucheit, Hamilton police Detective John Habig, Prosecutor Michael Gmoser, Middletown police Detective Steve Winters, and Middletown police Chief Rodney Muterspaw. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Butler County detectives honored for busting would-be scammers of older residents

In his second annual Prosecutor’s Meritorious Service Award presentation, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser recognized Middletown police Detective Steve Winters and Hamilton police Detective Jon Habig.

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When Gmoser took office as prosecutor in 2011, he created the Butler County Crimes Against the Elderly Task Force after recognizing that senior citizens nationwide were under-represented and many times disregarded when they called to report a crime. He said both detectives have been on the “ground floor” working on this task force.

“This is the second epidemic in society,” he said. “It’s a scourge and a silent killer.”

Gmoser said scams and thefts against older residents are crimes that are in epidemic proportions.

“In the past, both of these cases might not ever have been investigated, which is why we want to acknowledge their willingness to go above and beyond these sometimes-difficult and unusual cases,” Gmoser said.

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Winters was recognized for recovering $9,142 from a contractor who took a couple’s money for kitchen cabinets that were never intended to be delivered. Gmoser said over the next three to four months, the contractor texted back and forth with the couple, giving excuse after excuse until finally there was no communication. He said within two to three days of getting this case, Winters had the couple’s money back.

Habig was recognized for his dedicated computer work in what Gmoser described as “untangling a bowl of spaghetti” involving a scam of a Hamilton victim and a victim from the Columbus area.

Gmoser said the 22-month investigation started as a follow-up of initial report that involved tracing cash and checks to Walmart transactions from the victims to various personal and sham business accounts.

The case resulted in the 2018 conviction of Latoya Lee on several counts of money laundering and theft from the two victims. A first-time offender, she received a 7 1/2-year prison sentence after extradition. Her husband, Tahse Lee, who fled the country and remains a fugitive in Jamaica, has been charged with the same offenses.

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