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Scam

Brandon Lesser’s mugshot. Photo from SCPD

After receiving a call from a victim who became suspicious about the authenticity of his purchased tickets on the app Letgo, 1st Precinct crime section officers conducted an undercover operation.

The officers arranged to meet the seller, Brandon Lesser, in the parking lot of Ragazzi Italian Kitchen and Bar, located at 2950 Middle Country Road in Nesconset, to purchase two Billy Joel concert tickets for $350. Lesser allegedly sold the undercover officer the same tickets — floor section D, Row 2, seats 5 and 6 — for the July 28 show at Madison Square Garden that he sold to the victim who initially contacted the police. Police arrested Lesser and transported him to the 1st Precinct.

Lesser, 24, of Centereach, was charged with two counts of second-degree petit larceny and scheme to defraud.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip July 31.

Police are asking anyone who might have been a victim of this scam to contact 1st Precinct crime section officers at 631-854-8126.

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File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested a Commack man Sept. 28 for multiple charges relating to a scam during which he took money from victims with the false promise of delivering vehicles.

Between December 2016 and September 2017, Emmanuel Amaral advertised cars for sale on Craigslist. Numerous victims paid him anywhere between $3,000 and $24,000 for a vehicle and waited several months for delivery, which never occurred. In one case, Amaral scammed a victim he met while in line at a bagel shop, and in another instance, defrauded a victim he met at an elementary school event. Amaral defrauded victims out of a total of approximately $73,000.

After an investigation by detectives from the Suffolk County Police, Property/Auto Crime Unit, Amaral was arrested in front of his residence at approximately 2 p.m. today.

Amaral, 48, was charged with seven counts of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheming to defraud.

Detectives are asking anyone who feels they may have been victimized by Amaral, who also uses the aliases Manny Balboa and Manny Amaral, to contact the Suffolk County Police, Property/Auto Crime Unit at 631-853-7114.

Amaral is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip and the investigation is ongoing.

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, speaks about how she almost fell victim to a scam, at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai on March 11. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Don’t trust anyone.”

That’s what Bernard Macias of AARP advised seniors to do at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai regarding phone scams across Suffolk County.

“It’s happening more and more than you think,” he said. “Clearly, for AARP, we’re here to protect people 50 and over, but we’re finding that our member’s children and grandchildren and being faced with this. Don’t trust anyone, really, because they’re constantly changing those scams.”

Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said that in 2015, the total cost of financial fraud against seniors across the country was $36.5 billion. Although anyone can be a victim of scam, con artists particularly prey on seniors, he said.

“That is an extraordinary sum that is being stolen from our citizens,” he said. “Tax day is April 15, it is fast approaching and it is a time that scam artists are working hard to get a hold of people’s hard-earned money.”

Bellone said that in one instance, a scamming entity posed as the Internal Revenue Service and said that if the person did not provide a certified check or transfer funds to the agency, they would be imprisoned. The caller went so far as the tell the victim that they would remain on the line until the woman reached her bank and successfully wired the funds to an account that was provided, he said.

Luckily, the bank manager recognized the customer and noticed that she looked and sounded worried, Bellone said. The victim told the manager about the person she was on the phone with, and the manager was able to stop the scam from happening.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and as a result, Bellone said the county is urging citizens to remain informed. He said so far, Suffolk County Consumer Affairs has recovered over $534,000 through its investigations on behalf of county residents.

“These scammers use all kinds of threats and demands to gain access to your accounts, and threaten your identity,” he said.

The county executive urged those who felt vulnerable to a scam to file a complaint with the consumer affairs department by calling (631) 853-4600.

To avoid an IRS scam, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said that AARP offers free tax filings for senior citizens. Some locations in the town include the senior center and town hall, among local libraries, he said.

Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, received two suspicious phone calls within three weeks. She said that during the one call she did answer, TD Bank was mentioned. Hamm used to have an account with the organization, which she said piqued her interest in listening to what the caller had to say. The person on the other end of the phone mentioned having or owing money, which she said sounded off.

“I asked, ‘is this a scam? And boom, he hung up the phone,” she said. “You just know — you get a vibe and a red flag goes off. I think as we get older you don’t want to make any waves, and I understand seniors become afraid and concerned, because they don’t want any trouble, but you can’t be afraid to step forward and say no.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she too received two messages on her phone that were related to scams.

“Help us help you,” is what the caller said at the end of one of the messages.

Anker said she tried to call back the number, but the call didn’t go through.

“People will actually fall for it,” Anker said. “They’re trying to catch the person on the phone right away, because once they get you in person, the level of scamming has increased.”

She asked residents to call the Suffolk County Police Department to report the scam as a crime, at (631) 852-COPS. Two years ago, the legislator also created a scam alert website, SCPDscamalert.org, which has more information on how to protect yourself against incidents involving scam.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said that calling 4(631) 51-TOWN would also provide residents with more information.

“If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right,” she said. “You should always follow your instincts and your gut, and the government will never call you when you’ve done something wrong. They’re required to mail you as proof of documentation. Don’t fall prey to the phone call.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urges residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Macias, who said AARP serves over 500,000 members on Long Island, said, in light of tax day, to mail in tax returns as early in the season as possible, not to give out personal information and to shred all personal documents.
Three important facts Macias said to understand is that the IRS will never call and demand payment over the phone, the IRS does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone and the IRS does not threaten to bring local law enforcement to your home.

“Scam artists continue to devise new things and new schemes that are becoming more and more difficult to detect, which is why AARP developed the AARP Fraud Watch Network as a way to protect people,” he said.

By logging onto aarp.org/money and clicking on the Consumer Protection tab, residents can access a link to the company’s Fraud Watch Network. There, anyone can sign up to get AARP’s Watchdog Alerts on scammers’ latest tricks and find out what to do if you’ve been victimized.

“You’re not only helping yourself, but helping other who may fall victim to the same scam,” Bellone said. “Don’t feel embarrassed to come forward. Feel empowered to help educate and protect others.”

Go around me

A 47-year-old man from Asbury Park, N.J., was found in the middle of Old Nichols Road in Islandia just before 5:00 a.m. on Feb. 7, passed out in the driver’s seat of his 2016 Mazda, police said. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Marijuana mall

In the parking lot of the Smith Haven Mall just after 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 6, police said a 23-year-old man from Hampton Bays was arrested for possession of marijuana. He was sitting in the driver’s seat of a 2015 Volkswagen. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana.

Driving drunk with a child

At about 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 6, a 30-year-old woman from Holtsville was driving a Nissan Frontier while drunk with her 5-year-old daughter in the car on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma, police said. She also had food stolen from Stop&Shop on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma, according to police. She was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15, endangering the welfare of a child, petit larceny and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. She also violated an order of protection prohibiting her from being under the influence in the presence of her daughter, police said.

Burned

Police arrested a 21-year-old man from Kings Park for having marijuana in his home around midnight on Feb. 5. Police discovered the drugs when they responded to a fire at the home. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana.

Foul pole

A 24-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested after he crashed his 2000 Honda Civic into a telephone pole on North Country Road in Smithtown at about 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 5, police said. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

Mischief on Midwood

At about 2:00 a.m. on Feb. 4, a 22-year-old man from Nesconset was arrested for breaking the window of a home on Midwood Avenue, police said. He was charged with criminal mischief.

Dodge couldn’t dodge police

A 42-year-old man from Lindenhurst was arrested on Feb. 4 in Islandia and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle. Police said he was driving on Veterans Memorial Highway just before 9:00 p.m. in a 2002 Dodge when they discovered he was driving with a revoked license.

Swerving SUV

At about 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, a 53-year-old man from Smithtown was stopped by police for failing to stay in his lane while driving his 2004 GMC Envoy on Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge, police said. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Ha-Sheesh

Police arrested a 17-year-old man from Smithtown and charged him with criminal possession of a controlled substance at 11:00 a.m. on Feb. 3. Police said he had hashish and THC oil when he was arrested on Lincoln Blvd. in Hauppauge.

Heroin arrest

A 27-year-old man from Shirley was arrested in the parking lot of Woodmont Village Apartments in Lake Ronkonkoma at about 11:00 p.m. on Feb. 3 with heroin on him, police said. He was charged with loitering and unlawful use of a controlled substance.

Long Island arrest-way

A 47-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. after police said he was driving a 1998 Subaru on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills while on prescription pills without a prescription. He was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, first-degree operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

High up on the lake

On Feb. 6, a 46-year-old man from Centerport was arrested after police said he had marijuana in his possession at 5:25 p.m. on the corner of Main Street and Lakeside Drive in Centerport. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Quite a couple

Police said a 23-year-old man from Hicksville and a 22-year-old woman from Massapequa had cocaine in their possession at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 on the corner of New York Avenue and West 21st Street in Huntington Station. They were both charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a controlled substance and loitering.

Corner of oh no and trouble

A 20-year-old man from Huntington was arrested on the corner of 11th Avenue and West 21st Street in Huntington Station on Feb. 6 at 5:15 p.m. after police said he had marijuana in his possession. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

But she got a fake ID

Police said a 39-year-old woman from Brooklyn used a fraudulent credit card and identification while shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington on Feb. 5. According to police, the woman used two fraudulent credit cards just after 4 p.m. and tried to impersonate the woman using a fraudulent driver’s license to open a new credit card. She was charged with fourth degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal impersonation of another person, second-degree forgery of public record, and second-degree possession of a forged instrument.

Jewelry gone

An unknown person broke into a residence on Andrea Lane in Greenlawn on Feb. 5 between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., and stole jewelry.

RIP GMC

Police said an unknown person punctured the tires of a 2002 GMC parked on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood on Feb. 5 between 5:50 and 6:20 p.m.

Oh, boy!

Police arrested two 17-year-olds from Port Jefferson Station for petit larceny on Feb. 6. The pair allegedly stole Playboy cologne from the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove a month earlier, on Jan. 7. The teens were arrested at the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant on Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station.

What a saint

On Feb. 7, police arrested a woman from Mastic Beach for grand larceny. The 33-year-old woman stole a wallet from another woman’s pocketbook that day at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, police said. The wallet contained several credit cards. She was arrested at the scene, around 10:05 p.m.

Shopping spree

A 17-year-old girl from Centereach was arrested on Jan. 31 for petit larceny after officials said she entered the Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket and stole assorted makeup and bath products. Police arrested her at the scene at 7 p.m.

Welcome home

Between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, someone entered a residence on Jarvin Road in Port Jefferson Station and stole cash and jewelry.

Route to handcuffs

Police arrested a man from Patchogue for driving while ability impaired on the afternoon of Feb. 5. He had been driving east on Route 25A in Stony Brook when an officer pulled him over for speeding. Police allegedly discovered the man was intoxicated and driving with a suspended license.

Fight to the finish

On Jan. 31 around 1:45 p.m., two men got into a fight on Route 25A in Port Jefferson. Police said the men were in the street when one of them punched the other in the face. The victim refused to go to the hospital.

Green-thumbed thief

Someone entered the property of a residence on East Gate Drive in Mount Sinai and stole a Japanese maple tree planted in the yard. Police said the incident happened between 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 and 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 3.

The rest is history

Police said someone broke the door lock and latch of the Miller Place Historical Society building between noon on Feb. 4 and 1:45 p.m. the following day.

Bang bang into the room

On Feb. 4 around 9 p.m., someone shot a BB gun at a residence on Longview Avenue in Rocky Point. A pellet left a small hole in the window.

Weekend allowance

An unknown person stole a purse from a 2012 Hyundai parked outside a residence on Hawkins Road in Centereach between 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 and 9:30 p.m. the following day. It was unclear whether the suspect broke into the car or if it had been left unlocked.

Gold digger

On the morning of Feb. 4, a woman at home on Middle Country Road in Selden received a scam call from someone posing as a federal employee of the Internal Revenue Service. The unidentified person told the woman that she would be charged if she didn’t send money. Police said the victim sent more than $1,000 to the caller.

According to police, a woman on Glen Court in Stony Brook received a scam call on Feb. 5 from a man who claimed to be her grandson and asked her for money. The woman sent more than $3,000 to the man.

The Rite to remain silent

A 32-year-old man was arrested for petit larceny on Feb. 7. Police said the Middle Island man took electronic items from the Rite Aid on College Road in Selden. He was arrested at the scene.

Sight for sore eyes

Police arrested a woman from Centereach for assault on Feb. 3, after she allegedly punched another woman in the face and injured her right eye on North Coleman Road. Police said the victim required medical attention.

And you’re out

On Feb. 2 at 7:56 p.m., police arrested a man for driving while ability impaired. According to officials, the man was unconscious when he crashed his 2001 Toyota into another car in a parking lot near Route 347 in Stony Brook. Police said the man had overdosed on heroin and was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital.

An ‘old scam with a new twist’ is soliciting money from some PSEG Long Island customers and threatening to cut off service if payments are not made immediately. Stock photo

Long Island utility PSEG said residents across Nassau and Suffolk counties have been receiving suspicious phone calls threatening to cut their service if they don’t immediately pay bills that don’t exist.

An alert from PSEG Long Island said both residential and business customers have been receiving calls from tricksters claiming to be employees of the utility company and warning that their electric service would soon be cut if payments are not made to them the same day. Similar scams have been reported across the country, with PSEG being one of the latest to see customers fall victim to them, the utility said in a statement.

It was described as an “old scam with a new twist,” in which scammers spoof PSEG Long Island’s interactive voice response system prompt menu so that when customers call back, they are presented with an interaction that is similar to one they would receive if they called PSEG Long Island’s real customer service line.

“The scammers tell customers that, in order to avoid being shut off, they must immediately pay their bill with a prepaid card that can be purchased at many pharmacies and retail stores,” the utility said in a statement.

Dan Eichhorn, vice president of customer services for PSEG Long Island, said there were striking similarities in each of the scams.

“Scammers ask the customer to give them the number on the back of the pre-paid card and take the money from the card — usually within a matter of minutes,” he said in a statement. “This scam has affected companies across the country. We urge our customers to always use caution when making payments.”

The utility reassured that it would never force a customer to give them the number of a prepaid card, especially with such urgency. In a statement, PSEG Long Island said that suspicious residents should hang up the phone if they receive such a call and call back directly to test the validity of that call.

“When PSEG Long Island makes an outbound phone call to customers, customer-specific information is shared with the customer,” PSEG Long Island said in a statement. “That information includes the account name, address, number and current balance. If customers do not receive this correct information, they likely are not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative.”

The number on the back of PSEG Long Island customer bills is 1-800-490-0025.

PSEG Long Island said the utility was working with local and national law enforcement to investigate the matter further and is reaching out to its contacts at local community service agencies, asking them to spread the word to their clients.

A crime of fashion
Suffolk County police said a 34-year-old woman from Smithtown was arrested in Smithtown on Aug. 9 and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said she stole assorted cosmetics valued at $250 from a CVS in Nesconset on Smithtown Boulevard, on April 24 and 27. She was arrested at the 4th Precinct at 10:15 a.m.

Drug seller caught
A 22-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested in Smithtown on Aug. 8 and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a narcotic with intent to sell. Police said he was arrested at his home on Portion Road and was in possession of heroin.

Busted with two drugs
Police said a 49-year-old Smithtown man was arrested on Aug. 8 and charged with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said he was arrested on Brooksite Drive in Smithtown. The man was driving a 1996 Lincoln northbound with a flat tire. After cops stopped him, they found him in possession of two drugs — heroin and cocaine.

King of beers
A 55-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on Aug. 9 in Kings Park and charged with petit larceny. Police said he stole three cans of Red Stripe beer and a package of toilet paper from a Smithtown Stop & Shop at 6:20 p.m. on July 31.

Door damaged
A Rite Aid pharmacy on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station reported on Aug. 5 that a rear door had been damaged.

Fat lip
A man required medical attention at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson on Aug. 9 after he was punched in the right eye and lip, causing a laceration. The incident occurred at 3:45 a.m. by Tommy’s Place on Main Street.

Rear window
A 2006 Nissan parked at a residence on Main Street in Port Jefferson was damaged on Aug. 8, between 5 and 6:30 a.m. The car’s rear window was reportedly broken.

Bang Bang
A Thompson Street resident in Port Jefferson reported on Aug. 5 that between 12:22 and 12:31 a.m., an unknown person was banging a large rock on their 1999 Oldsmobile parked in the driveway.

Back it up
A Peachtree Lane resident in Mount Sinai reported, on Aug. 6, that a person claiming to be from the IRS called their home and said they owed back taxes.

Upsetting
A woman on Tyler Avenue in Miller Place reported receiving numerous threatening phone calls from an upset man on Aug. 5.

Toyota thief
An unknown person stole items, including sunglasses and a phone charger, from a 2010 Toyota parked at a residence on Cedar Drive in Miller Place on Aug. 5.

Bottoming out
The owner of a 2003 Infiniti reported the vehicle’s undercarriage was damaged while it was parked on Tall Tree Lane in Rocky Point on Aug. 9.

Liar, liar, shoes on fire
A 57-year-old woman was arrested in Centereach on Aug. 9 and charged with fourth-degree arson. According to police, the women set fire to several boxes in front of Payless ShoeSource in Centereach and the front of the store caught fire.

Thirsty
An unknown person threw a glass Snapple bottle through a window of a Rosemary Lane home on Aug. 9, between 1:10 and 10:15 p.m.

Unholy
A 2015 Mazda parked at Grace Presbyterian Church in Selden was damaged on Aug. 9, between 7:45 and 9:20 p.m. Police said the vehicle’s front passenger side window was smashed and a purse was stolen from inside.

Zoom
A 2006 Suzuki ATV was stolen from the shed of a Wyandotte Street residence in Selden between Aug. 5 and Aug. 6.

Game over
Suffolk County police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a man who allegedly robbed a store in Centereach last month.
The man entered GameStop, located at 201 Centereach Mall, on July 25, at approximately 8:30 p.m., put his hand under his shirt and demanded cash, police said. An employee complied and the man fled on foot in the shopping center.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

DWAI déjà vu
A 29-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested in Stony Brook on Aug. 7 and charged with driving while ability impaired, with a prior conviction in 10 years. The woman was arrested at Stony Brook University Hospital after she crashed her 2004 Nissan into a telephone pole while driving on Nichols Road. Police said she was on prescription pills.

Faucet tapped
Someone stole a faucet from Lowe’s home improvement store on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook on Aug. 6 at 2:07 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Money, laptop stolen
Someone took cash, a laptop computer and a debit card from a 2014 Jeep Cherokee parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 movie theater on Aug. 5 at 8:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Movie theater mischief
Someone took an iPhone and broke the passenger side window of a 2014 Jeep parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 movie theater on Aug. 5 at 8:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Jeep damaged
Both side mirrors of a 2014 Jeep parked on Old Post Road in East Setauket were damaged by an unknown person on Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Not set in stone
Someone took a $100 stone monument from a residence on Pond Path in East Setauket on Aug. 5 at 11:30 a.m. There have been no arrests.

Botox lifted
Someone took Botox from a laboratory at on Research Way in Stony Brook on Aug. 4 at 12:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Devil’s in the details
Someone took a car detailing kit from Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket on Aug. 6 at 8:40 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Jewelry, cash stolen
Jewelry and cash were stolen from a residence on Sheep Pasture Road in East Setauket on Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

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