The “victim” who held an envelope stuffed with the supposed cash as he stood waiting for the two Plainfield teens on a township street was actually a Teaneck police detective clutching worthless paper, they said.
Police had been alerted by the would-be victim after he got a call from one of the wanna-be con artists, Police Chief Glenn M. O’Reilly said.
Pretending to be a lawyer, the chiseler sought bail money for a grandchild who supposedly had been arrested after hitting a pregnant woman while driving drunk, the chief said.
Armed with the scammer’s phone number and fake case number, a detective called back.
The scammer “proceeded to tell the role-playing detective an elaborately fabricated story about a family member being arrested for DWI after he’d struck and seriously injured a pregnant woman,” O’Reilly said.
Not only did the scammer provide all kinds of details -- he also put a crying woman who claimed to be a family member on the phone.
All the victim needed to do was forward $25,500 to secure the relative’s release, O’Reilly said.
The conversation lasted more than two hours before the scammer finally agreed to send a courier to Teaneck to collect.
“The detective was given specific instructions to place the money in an envelope with the case number supplied by the scammer written on the envelope,” the chief said.
He also “asked the detective to describe his clothing so his courier would know who to look for when he arrived at the drop-off location.”
The detective was holding a dummy envelope when Jeremy Del Carmen Luna, 19, walked up and collected it, O’Reilly said.
Undercover detectives rushed in, grabbing him and driver Salazar Baez, also 19, the chief said.
Both were charged with theft by deception and conspiracy. Del Carmen Luna was also charged with weapons possession after police found him carrying a knife, O’Reilly said.
Both men were released pending court appearances.
PLEASE NOTE: No law enforcer, court employee or other person involved in the justice system would request bail money over the phone, O’Reilly emphasized. They don’t use couriers, either. “Bail is paid in person at a police station or court,” the chief said.
Legitimate businesses, utility companies and government agencies also don’t conduct business that way, he added.
“Do not make cash payments, wire transfers or send money cards to individuals who contact you by phone for any reason,” O’Reilly said.
Those with elderly relatives or friends should warn them about such scams. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of one should contact their local police department, the chief said.
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