Police issue alert on scams of elderly

The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District has issued a warning about a series of recent scams in which elderly residents are being tricked into providing bond or bail money to get a relative out of jail.

"It’s on the upswing," 16th District commander James O’Donnell said at the Feb. 18 meeting of the 16th District Advisory Committee. "We’ve have had half dozen in a couple of months."

The committee also discussed the rescue of a woman in a fire and an incident in which a motorist helped police catch a burglary suspect.

O’Donnell said that the scam is not new but that the Internet has made the false story sound more authentic to victims. He said that in the past con artists would tell victims that their grandchild will go to jail unless bond is posted but that now they are able use the grandchild’s name because that information can be found online.

There have been incidents in which con artists call their victims pretending to be a law enforcement officer and other cases in which they ring the doorbell of a victim’s home, O’Donnell said. At least $500 in cash usually is sought, and in some instances the thieves will meet the victim at their bank, he said.

"The police don’t contact you for bond money," O’Donnell said.

Also at the meeting, O’Donnell praised the "life-saving" actions of officers Terry Abbate and Karl Hervai who helped evacuate a burning building at 5601 W. Irving Park Road on Jan. 26. No major injuries were reported, and the two-story building, which contains a Mexican restaurant and apartments, suffered severe damage.

"The officers discovered an elderly female reluctant to leave her apartment," a summary statement issued by the district said. "Officer Abbate carried the victim over his shoulder down the stairs and out of the building, as smoke filled the stairwell. Officer Hervai continued the search until the apartments were vacant and then proceeded out of the building as the smoke became thick and filled the complex."

O’Donnell also said that three suspects were arrested after a woman reported the license plate number of a vehicle that was used in a Feb. 11 burglary of a home in the 5200 block of North Lamon Avenue. "Luckily for us, a citizen got involved and saw what she thought was odd," he said.

The burglars fled the house as soon as the home owners arrived home, and the witness was driving in the area when she noticed the suspicious behavior of the suspects, O’Donnell said. One of the suspects, who was identified by police as Derrick Ray, age 30 of Iowa, was charged in connection with the Lamon incident, and the other two men were being investigated in connection with what are believed to be proceeds from burglaries that occurred outside the 16th District, police said.

Donnell also reported that the district plans to honor two female teenagers who reported that they saw a man exposing himself in his parked car near Canty School on Jan. 13. The girls gave police a partial license plate number, and a suspect was later arrested. The suspect was identified by police as Ramon Galindez, age 63, of the 3500 block of West Hirsch Street.

The committee presented its Officer of the Month Award to Robert Young and Alvin Matthews for their Dec. 4 arrest of a burglary suspect in the 4300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue. Two businesses on the block had been reported burglarized that day.

It also was reported that the district’s Peer Jury asked three recent offenders who went before the panel to return in six months as jurors. The jury consists of students who issue punishments, such as community service work and writing letters of apology, to juvenile offenders who have admitted their guilt.

In addition, a man was charged with impersonating a firefighter after a traffic stop on Jan. 4 near Foster and Central avenues, according to police. The man allegedly told officers that he worked as a firefighter in Chicago and presented a Chicago Fire Department patch that he had in his wallet, police said.

The suspect, who was identified by police as Daniel R. Shafranski, age 44, of the 5800 block of West Peterson Avenue, was arrested after officers learned that he is not a department employee.