Two arrested in fraud scheme
By Robert Guttersohn
Girard police brought an end to a scam by arresting two men who purportedly conned a woman into paying them more than $4,000 by imitating a friend over the phone and forging loan documents.
On Friday, police arrested the two men: 31-year-old Ronald Lewis and his nephew 19-year-old Nicholas Lewis, both of 922 Lincoln Ave.
According to a police report, the two confessed to detectives their involvement in the scheme.
Capt. John Norman, a detective with Girard police, said Ronald Lewis took his father’s address book in November and began impersonating his father’s voice when calling the 74-year-old victim, also a resident of Girard. The victim told police she was friends with Ronald Lewis’s father, who goes by the same name.
According to the report, Ronald Lewis would call the victim, tell her he needed help paying his bills and would send Nicholas Lewis to pick up either a check or cash.
The first reported payout occurred Nov. 14 and continued through the end of the month. Payments ranged from $100 to $450 each request, the report said.
Several of the phone calls and requests came during the same day and in the evening, well past close of business for banks and utility companies, Norman said.
In the end, the victim reportedly paid out $4,450 to the duo, the report said.
In order to keep the victim lending, Ronald Lewis reportedly wrote IOU notes to her and even falsified a City of Girard letter, bearing Mayor James Melfi’s signature, guaranteeing repayment of the loan.
“I talked to the victim, and she apparently thought very highly of me,” Melfi said. “So they presented this document to her.”
The mayor said he never signed the document for the two nor would he ever sign such a document.
After their arrest, Ronald admitted to having a drug problem and would pay for the drugs with money from the victim, the report said. The two also said they used the money to pay for gas and food.
“These people were preying on the emotions and generosity of senior citizens,” Norman said.
He warned that people need to examine the common-sense nature of scams.
“If people are behind on their mortgage, they’re going to owe a lot more than just $120,” he said.
Melfi said if people ask for money, seek legal advice first.
“Never turn money over to anyone without consulting an attorney,” Melfi said.