Two men arrested on charges of bilking elderly bank patrons

Third suspect sought in `pigeon-drop' scheme

July 15, 1999|By La Quinta Dixon | La Quinta Dixon,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police have arrested two men on charges of running a money scam designed to swindle elderly bank patrons out of their savings, a spokesman said yesterday.

James McKee, 40, of Oxon Hill and James Smith, 43, of Washington, were charged with felony theft. McKee is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, and Smith is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Annapolis police have issued a warrant for a third man, 35-year-old Keith Twiggs, also of Washington. Police in Baltimore and Prince George's County are investigating the men in connection with similar fraud schemes.

The three are accused of taking $15,000 from a 73-year-old man in Anne Arundel County on June 8 and may have been involved in nine similar swindles, police said.

According to police, McKee and Smith approached elderly people in bank parking lots offering them a blessing to multiply their money. In what police call the "Jamaican switch," or "the pigeon drop," con artists take money from their targets, wrap it in a bandanna, "bless" it and return a similar-looking bandanna that contains newspaper wrapped with small bills to look like a wad of money.

Twiggs would watch the transaction from the parking lot, police allege. When McKee and Smith couldn't persuade people to take the bait, police said, Twiggs would prey on the "victim's greed" by pretending to accept the offer the victim had turned down.

When McKee and Smith were arrested, police found what appeared to be two bundles of money that turned out to be bundles of newspaper strips covered with $5 bills, said Detective Keith Light.

On June 30, police were alerted by a bank teller at the Bank of Glen Burnie in the 100 block of Crain Highway who was worried about a 74-year-old woman who wanted to withdraw $2,000 from her account. He supplied a license plate number to a car police traced to McKee.

Twiggs came to police attention when an Annapolis woman reported being robbed of $5,000 at the Farmers Bank of Maryland in Annapolis on May 17, said Lt. Robert Bean of the city police department. He said she identified all three men.

Anyone who may have been the victim of a similar scheme is asked to call Light at 410-222-6136

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