Granny scammers and Verizon fraudsters invade Berkeley Township with a vengeance, and police warn residents to be on guard.


Get me out of here

The first sign of trouble arose August 8 at a home in the township's Holiday City section. The Walesa Court resident told a responding officer that the previous day, he fielded a call from an individual who identified himself as Sergeant Jonathan Maneli, advising him that his grandson was in custody in the Dominican Republic for having drugs in his vehicle.

The "Sergeant" told the victim to wire $836 in bail money through Western Union, to Cecelia E. Franco. After doing so, the victim repeatedly tried and failed to reach his grandson by phone, finally speaking to his daughter-in-law, who let him know that the boy was never in the Dominican Republic, and in no trouble.

On August 9, a woman in a house on Fort DeFrance Avenue in Holiday City reported that a male who identified hmiself as her grandson called and said that he was in the Dominican Republic with a friend. She told police that she heard no discernable accent. After that, the story became truly involved.

According to the victim, he said that while on a sightseeing tour, their vehicle was involved in a crash, and police who arrived found two pounds of heroin in the trunk and arrested him.

He went on to say that after his "arrest," the tour guide admitted owning the drugs, and he was then transferred to the American Embassy, where authorities required $865 bail for his release, the woman said.

Berkeley Township police cruiser
Berkeley Township police cruiser (Facebook)

Following his instructions, she entered Western Union and wired the money to the attention of Yorleny Beltre. The "grandson" then advised her that if she had any more questions, she could contact a Sergeant Mireli, at, 809-854-9758, extension 415.

After carrying out the orders, she learned from family members that no grandson of hers was arrested, or even in the Dominican Republic, police said.

Police warn residents receiving scam calls not to disclose personally-identifying information, not to send money, or other forms of payment, and not to heed instructions involving financial transfer.

Sorry, wrong numbers

Two township residents received unwelcome surprises from Verizon - invoices in the hundreds of dollars for phone lines they never ordered.

On August 10, police took a report form a Riverside Drive resident about two Verizon accounts opened in her name, without her knowledge or consent, for which she received statements amounting to $334.52 the previous day.

On August 11, a Bimini Drive resident told officers that she received a Verizon bill for $167.26 for a phone line she knew nothing about.

Both victims notified Verizon directly. The company closed all the accounts in question. Police have no suspects.

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