NORWALK – A Quartz Hill woman accused of trying to steal $20,000 from an 83-year-old woman in what is commonly known as a “pigeon drop” scam must stand trial on multiple charges.
Following a preliminary hearing at Norwalk Superior Court Monday, 48-year-old Quartz Hill resident Margaret Souza and co-defendant Teneca Wilson, 31, of Los Angeles, were held to answer to charges of attempted elder abuse, attempted grand theft and conspiracy, sheriff’s official said.
The charges stem from an elder abuse scam that was allegedly conducted Jan. 22 in Cerritos. The scam was explained in a press release issued Tuesday by the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. Read it below:
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Souza and Wilson in Cerritos on January 22, 2015, after they allegedly attempted to steal $20,000 from an 83-year-old woman in what is commonly known as a “pigeon drop” scam.
Souza allegedly contacted the elderly victim in a supermarket parking lot, told the victim she found $120,000 in cash, and showed the victim a purse filled with stacks of what appeared to be $100 bills.
The victim told Souza to call the police, but Souza allegedly told the victim that she worked for an attorney who said she could keep the money if she found two witnesses. Souza also allegedly told the victim that if she could prove she was “trustworthy,” and that she had $20,000 in the bank, she would split the $120,000 with her.
The victim agreed, and Souza and Wilson drove to a Bank of America branch in Cerritos where the victim withdrew $10,000 in cash from her account. Souza and Wilson then drove the victim to a U.S. Bank branch in Cerritos where the victim attempted to withdraw another $10,000. The teller at U.S. Bank asked the victim for the reason for the withdrawal. When the victim told the teller what was happening, the teller called 9-1-1.
When deputies arrived at the U.S. Bank branch, they discovered Souza and Wilson in the parking lot waiting for the victim. Souza was wearing a wig that disguised her appearance, and the suspects were in a red 2010 Dodge Nitro with paper plates, which was registered to Wilson.
The stacks of $100 bills shown to the victim by Souza turned out to be stacks of $1 bills, with $100 bills on the outside to make it appear to be more money than it was. Deputies also found evidence in the suspect’s car leading investigators to believe that there may be additional victims.
According to court records, Souza has three prior felony convictions for thefts from elders between 2009 and 2014. These three convictions were in Los Angeles, Orange and Sacramento counties. Court records also indicate that Wilson was convicted of check forgery in Los Angeles County in 2003.
Help detectives identify additional victims
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives believe there are additional victims and are seeking the public’s help in identifying them. Detectives would also like to educate the public about this kind of scam, and the vulnerability of elderly citizens. Anyone with information or questions is encouraged to contact Detective Kent at 562-860-0044.