More victims sought in scam

Pair accused of buying life insurance on homeless men, then killing them

May 21, 2006|By RICHARD WINTON AND CARA MIA DIMASSA | RICHARD WINTON AND CARA MIA DIMASSA,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles police detectives said Friday they were scrambling to locate several men who may have fallen victim to a pair of elderly women accused of taking out large life insurance policies on two homeless men later killed in suspicious hit-and-run accidents.

Authorities allege that the women purchased rubber stamps bearing the signatures of at least eight men, which detectives believe could have been used to forge signatures on insurance forms.

The whereabouts of some of these men remain unknown.

Traffic division officers from around the city are now poring over years of unsolved hit-and-run cases, looking for links to the women, or similar circumstances.

"I tend to believe there are other victims out there," said Detective Dennis Kilcoyne.

Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, and Helen Golay, 75, were charged Thursday with mail fraud, but police consider them suspects in the deaths of the two men.

Detectives expressed concern that Rutterschmidt and Golay may have recruited potential victims of the life insurance scheme from Los Angeles' Hungarian and Eastern European community.

Rutterschmidt is from Hungary, as was the first man who died, Paul Vados.

Detectives said they arrested the pair Thursday after becoming concerned for the safety of several men. Court documents show that, during a surveillance operation, police witnessed Rutterschmidt give an elderly man named Josef Gabor numerous documents, which he signed. She then allegedly drove him to a Washington Mutual bank branch on Wilshire Boulevard near Crenshaw Boulevard.

Police are also looking for Nicholas Koos, who lived in an apartment building next to the Hungarian Reformed Church on Crenshaw Boulevard, a few blocks from the bank.

Gabor and Kenneth McDavid, the second man killed, also once lived next to the church.

According to court records, Rutterschmidt secured a rubber stamp bearing Koos' signature from the company where she purchased one for McDavid.

Authorities allege that the women befriended Vados and McDavid and found apartments for them. Then, they allegedly took out 19 life insurance policies on the men and eventually cashed in more than $2.2 million in claims after the transients died in hit-and-run pedestrian accidents in Los Angeles. Vados was hit by a car in an alley on Nov. 8, 1999. McDavid was found dead in an alley on June 22, 2005.

According to prosecutors, an hour before McDavid's body was discovered in the alley, Golay called for a tow truck a few blocks away.

Both men died of multiple traumatic injuries to their upper body, according to coroners' reports obtained Friday. McDavid had alcohol and pain pills in his blood, while Vados had no substances in his system, according to the report.

Vados' relatives said Friday they had never heard of the two women until they were contacted by homicide detectives.

Randy Hansen, Vados' son-in-law, said the family learned that the women had claimed his body from the coroner and buried him an unmarked grave.

Richard Winton and Cara Mia DiMassa write for the Los Angeles Times.

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