WCSO commended by federal agency for helping bust scammers involved in targeting the elderly

Local arrest opens link to national and international organization

Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman recently received the thanks of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a sting operation by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office that will help them bring down an organization involved in scamming individuals, many of them elderly.

“Through the dedicated work of your members, the Pittsburgh Office of Homeland Security Investigations has been able to link these members to a much larger organization that will federally be indicted in the coming months, Assistant Special Agent in Charge James D. Abbate wrote in the letter to Chapman. “It is only through this type of collaboration that law enforcement can be successful in protecting our communities. Please pass along my sincere appreciation to the men and women of your department.”

Abbate specifically named Analyst Karisa Drouault, Detective Denny Wells, Detective Eric Whitlow, Deputy Jewshua Arango and Captain Kirk McLeroy in his letter of commendation.

Wells said that the phone scammers had reached out to several residents in the Walton County and detectives were able to speak with someone in an active scam.

“We were able to go out and meet with the victim and actually have the subject come to the house,” Wells said.

When the subject arrived expecting to pick up the money, he was arrested. It was a scam that WCSO had seen in the past and had regularly warned residents to be aware of.

“It is a grandparent scam. The caller convinces them their grandchild was involved in an accident of some sort and arrested. It would either be a distance away or out of state. The victims would be trying to help their grandchild make bail so they would comply and would go and withdraw the money or try to get the money together,” Wells said. “The individual we arrested was not from Walton County. He was from out of state and had traveled here to pick up the money.”

Wells said they don’t have reason to believe that local residents are involved in any of these scam, but are actually occurring from outside the state. He said when they arrested the subject they had already established contact with Homeland Security and were able to contact them and other organizations.

They are working a larger case and we were able to pass the information onto them,” Wells said.

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