The director and guiding voice behind a phone scam that stole $1 million from senior citizens in Broward, Palm Beach and other Florida counties has been charged in West Palm Beach federal court, prosecutors say.
A criminal complaint gives 40-year-old Edtronda Simon, aka Edtronda Harrell, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and her Florida cohorts little credit for innovation in elder fraud. They ran a phone scam that’s so common that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office sent warnings in March and May about it.
But the court documents give the gang $1 million worth of points for effectiveness with over 250 victims. Two of the Florida gang, Port St. Lucie residents Shaumbrica Stubbs and Samuel Charles, already entered into plea bargains admitting to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to Stubbs’ and Charles’ admissions of guilt, a woman would call the senior citizen and claim to be from the senior’s bank — Bank of America in the two examples given in their admissions. The woman would have just enough information, such as a bank account number or last transaction information, to convince the senior that this was a call from Bank of America.
The faux Bank of America representative would tell the senior citizen because of fraud, the bank account had been compromised. A Bank of America employee would be coming by the senior citizen’s house to get the debit cards or credit cards from the compromised account, then would return with cards from a new account.
(This is the main point of the warnings from PBSO and other agencies: no bank, whether Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, One United, Wells Fargo, etc., is coming to your house to personally pick up credit cards or debit cards linked to a compromised account. Any time the caller says that’s happening, it’s a scam. Take down the number, call your bank, then local law enforcement.)
Card sharks eat quickly
Once the senior citizen handed over the card or cards, the scammer then hit ATMs (if the PIN could also be learned), bought money orders or merchandise as fast as possible. In the incident Stubbs’ admission describes in detail, she made 11 transactions worth $7,000 on Dec. 10, 2018. Charles’ admission says he rolled up $10,000 in charges on 16 transactions on Feb. 19, 2018.
Stubbs’ admission says she ripped off $107,445 from 2016 through June 2019. Over the same period, Charles’ admission says he stole $104,587 from victims.
Also charged in this scam are Florida residents Luclesse Vernesse, Ian Felder, Diedre Dixon, and Shaquille Robinson.
Charles’ admission says he worked with Vernesse by helping him do the illicit spending on Feb. 19, 2018, after he got the bank cards from a married couple.
The criminal complaint accuses Simon, aka Harrell, who has grand theft convictions in Miami-Dade and Indian River counties, of being the voice on the phone from 2016 through earlier this year.