Arrested were Spencer Compas, 29, of Etting Street near Snyder Avenue in South Philadelphia; Witson Lavilette, 38, of Roosevelt Boulevard near F Street in Crescentville; Johanne Wesh, 37, of Abington; and her brother Kens Wesh, 38, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
All were charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, identity theft and theft by deception. Compas, Lavilette and Johanne Wesh are being held on $1 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing Aug. 21. Kens Wesh remained on the lam yesterday and was believed to be in New York.
The nine-month probe began when a 77-year-old California man told police he paid $6,600 to a caller claiming to be his grandson's lawyer. The grandson, the scammer told him, had been arrested for drunken driving in Philadelphia and needed bail money and attorney's fees. But when the scammer called again and demanded $10,000 more, the victim realized he'd been scammed and that his grandson hadn't been arrested.
Police launched an undercover sting. A law-enforcement agent posing as a postman delivered a package supposedly containing the $10,000 to a home on West Albanus Street in Olney. When Compas took the package, officers arrested him. Further investigation led authorities to the other suspects.
"This swindle creates false fears among our senior citizens that their loved ones are in some kind of serious trouble and urgently need their help," Attorney General Kathleen Kane said. "They then dupe these unsuspecting, well-intentioned victims into transferring money to them. These seniors just wanted to help, but all the scam artists intended to do was steal."
Kane's office said others may have been victimized. If you think you may have been defrauded by the four suspects after sending (or being asked to send) money to an address in Philadelphia, Abington or New York, contact the Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Section in Norristown at 610-631-5937.
On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo