Man admits role in 'grandparent scam' that cost Beverly woman $60,000 

BEVERLY — She's been a successful businesswoman for nearly five decades. 

But the men on the other end of the phone line were pretty convincing — one posing as her grandson and the other, complete with a Texas accent, pretending to be a lawyer. They wanted her to wire them $60,000 for bail for the grandson, who, they claimed, had been stopped by police officers who found drugs in his car. 

"I think it's disgusting there are people like that scamming old people out of money," she told a Salem District Court judge on Tuesday. "I cannot begin to tell you. When I received that phone call, they knew everything about me." 

"When I found out I was fooled," she said, "I've been in business for 47 years ..." 

Judge Randy Chapman, who called the crime "reprehensible," tried to reassure her that she's far from the only smart person taken in by something that is happening so frequently, it has a name: "the grandparent scam." 

A lawyer he knows, a man who had practiced law for 30 years, was also fooled by the same type of scam, Chapman told the woman, who is in her late 70s and lives in Beverly. 

"It's happening to everybody," said the judge. 

But unlike many cases, Beverly police were able to identify one of the people involved in the scheme: Jason Temprachanh, 29, of Fort Worth, Texas, who on Tuesday admitted that there is sufficient evidence to convict him of a charge of larceny by false pretense. 

The case was continued without a finding for two years. 

Temprachanh will now spend the next two years on probation, with a condition that he pay restitution to the woman and writes a letter of apology. The exact amount will be set at a hearing next month.

If he stays out of further trouble and pays restitution, the case will be dismissed. But if he fails to do so, Chapman ordered, he faces a six-month jail sentence. 

He is also offering, through his attorney, help in trying to identify the men who were behind the scheme. 

"I want to know, where's the money?" the woman asked Temprachanh. "Where did the money go?" 

But more than the missing money, she said, "I'd like to see the man punished. Otherwise, they'll keep doing it." 

Temprachanh apologized to her. 

"Ma'am," he said, "I'm very sorry. I'm just a kid with a dream to be a musician." 

The money he withdrew from his Bank of America account, his lawyer said, was money he thought was part of an advance from a record company. 

"It got mixed up," Temprachanh told the woman. 

"It doesn't permit you to steal," the woman responded. 

"It was never supposed to happen," Temprachanh told her.

Prosecutor Haleigh Reisman and Temprachanh's attorney, Ernest Stone, had reached an agreement to continue the case without a finding for one year, before Chapman doubled the length of time the case would remain open, and added a potential jail term.

Reisman told the judge that the Beverly police got a call last January from the woman, who told officers that a "frantic" sounding young man, claiming to be her grandson, needed her help. The older-sounding man gave her detailed instructions where to send the money — and Temprachanh's bank account and routing numbers. 

She had already wired $60,000 from her People's United Bank account by the time she realized her grandson was not in any sort of legal trouble. 

Detective Joshua Pickett and Patrolman Dana Nicholson acted quickly, contacting the fraud departments of both banks, getting a search warrant, and quickly identifying Temprachanh, who was subsequently arrested in Texas.

But they were unable to find out who else was involved in the scam. 

Reisman told the judge that the recent death of Pickett would have posed a challenge to trying the case. 

Stone said it was a "sophisticated" scheme. And his client is not a sophisticated man. 

While out on bail, he's worked part time in a movie theater, as he pursues his dream of a professional singing career. 

"I don't think he knew what was going on," Stone said outside court. "He was expecting money from a recording deal. His manager told him that money had been deposited in his account for the record deal and to go get it." 

"She shouldn't feel bad," Stone added. "A lot of people fall for it." 

The problem of elders being financially exploited has become so widespread that officials have begun to develop resources to help seniors be more aware of scams. 

Last spring,the attorney general's office put out a "Savvy Senior Guide," available at https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/04/10/Savvy%20Senior%20Guide_2019.pdf for download. Seniors can also call the attorney general's elder hotline at (888) AG-ELDER for help.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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