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SCAM AGAINST SENIORS BROKEN.

Byline: Orith Goldberg Staff Writer

NORTH HOLLYWOOD - A pair of Los Angeles police detectives investigating a series of strange, small car crashes unraveled a citywide sting that has bilked seniors out of thousands of dollars.

Detective David Millan made it his mission to stop a spree of crime against the elderly, and with Detective Sean Mahoney tracked down two suspects who stand accused of staging at least 27 minor car crashes with seniors throughout Los Angeles to get them out of their vehicles to steal their cash or rob them, police said.

Investigators said Wednesday that the suspects - one who's in custody, the other who has a felony warrant waiting for him - targeted people 70 or older between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

``These guys are predators,'' Millan said. ``That's why they pick on the elderly, they don't fight back and the chances of recalling them are limited.

``You get a 75, 80, 90-year-old just struck by a car and he's lucky he is not passing out from that kind of excitement.''

And what the suspects did in the aftermath brought a special indignation from investigators and senior advocates.

``(These suspects) are the lowest form of life, these people have no moral compulsion,'' said John Bordenet, a program consultant at AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C., who specializes in training police in working with the elderly and crimes against seniors.

Bordenet said the suspects enjoyed not only the money but the success of swindling without being detected. And it's a sly crime.

When the victim stepped out of the car, the suspects were careful enough to cause a large-enough bump to stop the victim but small enough not to garner police attention. And once the victim stepped out of the car, the suspects handed the victim a fake ID in a wallet to ``exchange information.'' The suspects then slipped cash out of the victim's wallet while the exchange was under way.

``It's carefully choreographed,'' said Bordenet, who noted that the suspects want to catch the victims off guard. ``It's rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and then it's like a stage play.

``I'm not surprised at their cleverness and brazenness, you get an older person who can become disoriented and preoccupied and those are all things pickpockets (do).''

In one case, a 78-year-old man said he was choked and slammed against his car.

Initially, detectives in North Hollywood looked into two cases and wondered whether there were any other reports, so they called around the city.

``Phones rang off the hook from Wilshire, Hollywood, Pacific, Southwest, and we found a definite pattern,'' Millan said. ``We were relentless compiling all of the city cases ... and came up with solid leads.''

The evidence led to a pair of men police say were convicted in a similar scam in 1988 with a crew of six others.

Millan and Mahoney arrested Ivory Joe Taylor, 35, last month after a chase on foot led to Taylor allegedly getting into a brown Oldsmobile Cutlass - one of five suspected cars used in the scam - and ramming the detective's car.

Taylor has been charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office with resisting arrest through force as investigators prepare to bring a case charging the scam.

Police have a felony arrest warrant for the other suspect, Gino Oneal, 37, of Los Angeles. So far, he has eluded police. Oneal is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 240 pounds, Millan said.

Marilyn Fried, executive director of Van Nuys-based ONE, Organization for the Needs of the Elderly, said it is important to get the word out about such schemes because this is the type of crime that could happen to anyone.

``It tends to undermine a senior's self-confidence and it can have a much greater consequence than to a younger (person),'' Fried said.

LAPD Cmdr. Sharon Papa commended the detectives for their diligence on this case and said it is unfortunate there are people out there who resort to stealing from the elderly. Police have placed an emphasis, in the past several years, on elder abuse cases, she said.

But, she said, ``There is always somebody out there who stoops very low.''

Anyone who has been a victim of a similar crime or has information about the suspects is urged to contact Detective David Millan at (818) 623-4150.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) MILAN

(2) MAHONEY
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 4, 2001
Words:730
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