Authorities are trying to locate a 49-year-old Florida man suspected in a costly telephone scam.
Juan C. Piedrahita, 49, of Hollywood, Florida, has been charged with theft by deception for trying to defraud an elderly Jersey Shore resident, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Barnegat Township Police Chief Keith A. Germain.
Piedrahita ;remained at large late Tuesday, authorities said.
Piedrahita's charges are the result of a joint investigation last month by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Barnegat Township Police Department Detective Bureau.
The investigation found that Piedrahita, posing as an attorney, contacted an elderly victim by telephone advising him that his nephew had been in a motor vehicle accident, Billhimer and Germain said.
Piedrahita convinced the victim that his nephew was under arrest and that $10,000 cash bail was needed to secure his release, according to Billhimer and Germain.
The victim got cash and met Piedrahita -- posing as a courier -- at a CVS parking lot in Barnegat, the prosecutor said. After leaving the parking lot, the elderly victim was contacted once again and instructed to provide another $10,000 as payment to the alleged victim of the purported motor vehicle accident, Billhimer and Germain said.
It was only after the victim was questioned by bank staff that he contacted his nephew and confirmed that his nephew was not in actual trouble, the prosecutor said.
Detectives were able to obtain surveillance footage of the area surrounding the CVS parking lot, which helped identify a vehicle that Piedrahita rented at Newark International Airport, Billhimer and Germain said. Authorities were able to confirm Piedrahita’s identity based on that surveillance footage, they said.
Piedrahita’s location is unknown, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued, Billhimer snd Germain said late Tuesday.
Anyone with information about Piedrahita’s whereabouts is urged to call Detective James Purcell of the Barnegat Township Police Department at 609-698-5000, extension 262.
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