Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Barnegat Township Police Chief Keith A. Germain announced that on January 6, Jorge Peguero-Mendez, 34, and Richard Quinones-Perez, 24, both of the Bronx, NY, were each charged with Theft by Deception, as well as Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception.
Authorities say these charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Barnegat Township Police Department - with the assistance of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad - which revealed that an elderly victim residing in Barnegat was contacted in December 2021 by an individual claiming to be her grandson.
According to county officials, the individual informed her that he had been involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York City, and claimed that he was arrested due to the fact that the driver of the other vehicle had sustained injuries.
Officials say the caller further asserted that a lawyer had been appointed to represent him.
The victim subsequently received a second phone call, this time from an individual identifying himself as her grandson’s lawyer, informing her that he could arrange to have her grandson released from custody in exchange for a cash payment of $8,000, police officials say.
Authorities say she was later met by an individual claiming to be a courier, to whom she turned over the $8,000.
After consulting with family members, the victim realized that her grandson had not, in fact, been arrested and that she was the victim of a scam, say authorities.
An investigation conducted by Officers from the Barnegat Township Police Department determined that similar events had recently occurred in Hopewell Township, and Nassau County, NY.
According to officials, working cooperatively with the Hopewell Township Police Department, United States Department of Health and Human Services - Office of the Inspector General, and Nassau County New York Police Department, law enforcement was able to identify Peguero-Mendez and Quinones-Perez as the individuals responsible for the scamming incidents.
The investigation further revealed Peguero-Mendez drove Quinones-Perez to the Ocean County area with the intent to procure cash from the victim.
Authorities say Peguero-Mendez and Quinones-Perez have not yet been apprehended, and warrants for their arrests have been issued and remain outstanding.
Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by these particular defendants, or who are in possession of information as to the whereabouts or either suspect, is urged to contact Officer Robert Armstrong of the Barnegat Township Police Department at (609) 698-5000.
“These types of incidents should serve as a cautionary tale for all of our senior citizens here in Ocean County, as well as a reminder that unscrupulous individuals are out there just waiting to prey upon the most vulnerable members of our community,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
“Please be vigilant in identifying these fraudulent phone calls, and recognize that any phone call or message requesting large sums of cash or wire transfers is likely a scam. These types of calls should be immediately reported to law enforcement,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.
The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.