An alert bank employee helped save a woman from being scammed out of what police described was a large sum of money during a common prayer scam.
The three Los Angeles residents were found and eventually arrested by Glendora Police Wednesday afternoon after they fled the area. The men were using what officers described as a “pigeon drop” scam, also known as the “African switch” scam” and convinced the victim to withdraw the funds, but the alert bank teller refused to let her do so.
The suspects approached their victim in the Stater Bros. parking lot, 1830 E. Route 66 , Wednesday afternoon and then convinced her to travel to a bank to withdraw the funds, said Lt. Rob Lamborghini of Glendora Police.
Lamborghini declined to say which bank the suspects and victim travelled to. He also declined to specify the dollar amount, but did say it was in the thousands.
In these types of scams, one suspect will approach the intended victim, usually in a grocery store lot and, using a foreign accent, claims to have come into a huge sum of money and wishes to donate to a church, police said on their Facebook page.
The suspect will produce what appears to be a stack of cash to convince the intended victim. A second suspect, pretending to be a stranger, will want to be a part of the process and claim to be affiliated with a local church. The victim will be instructed to withdraw money, police said.
Once withdrawn, the money will be placed in a bandana, cloth or bag to be prayed over, after which the money will be switched out and replaced with something else, sometimes newspaper clippings, police said.
Arrested were Carlos Grayson, 43, Joe Buckhalter, 60 and Larry Staves, 44. All three suspects are being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Grayson was booked on suspicion of theft of an elder, grand theft, theft by false pretenses, conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary.
Grayson is being held in the Glendora jail.
Staves and Buckhalter are being held in the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles, according to county booking records. Additional booking information for Staves and Buckhalter was not available.
Police warn to be wary of any stranger who has unusual requests for money, donations or other information.
All three are scheduled to appear in the West Covina Courthouse Friday, May 6.