For release on June 4, 2013
Cherie Bourlard, Deputy District Attorney
Elder Fraud Unit
UNLICENSED CONTRACTOR GETS PRISON FOR SCAMMING ELDERLY COUPLE
An unlicensed contractor was sentenced to nine years in prison today, after being tracked down by a thumb print he left on an $8,500 check that he scammed from a scared, elderly San Jose couple.
Tom Lee, 47, was sentenced by the Hon. Phillip Pennypacker after pleading guilty on March 26, 2013 to Felony Theft and Attempted Theft from an Elder.
Lee paid the victims full restitution of $13,000 - which included the cost to repair the damage to their driveway he was hired to repair. The cement patch job was so substandard that D.A. Investigator Dennis Brookins said he had “put more peanut butter on a piece of toast than they put concrete on this driveway.”
“Every year, the elderly of our community are targeted by criminals claiming they can repave driveways, fix roof leaks and clean gutters,’’ Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said. “What they are truly qualified for is stealing money. Check licenses, get written estimates, don’t pay cash in advance, and call the D.A.’s Office if you think you’ve been scammed.”
On October 27, 2010, an elderly couple in their 80s were in their Willow Glen front yard gardening when they were approached by two men, including Lee - who misidentified himself as Nicholas Stevens. Claiming to be an expert paver, Lee suggested to the couple he could repair the cracks in their concrete driveway. Thinking the job would cost $100-$200, the elders (one of whom suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease) hired them. After completing the shoddy job, Lee told the elders that the job actually cost $3,000. After the elder wrote a check for $3,000, Lee tore up the check, threatened the elderly man and demanded more. The frightened elder finally wrote a check to the scamster for $8,500.
While the other suspect stayed with the couple, Lee swiftly went to the victims’ bank to cash the check. Despite the victim intentionally misspelling the suspect’s name incorrectly on the check, and the suspect using a forged driver’s license from Arizona for identification, the victims’ bank did not call the victims to verify the check. Later, the victims’ family called the police. Even after he had been reported, Lee returned unsuccessfully asking for $3,000 more. He got away, that time.
With the help of the District Attorney’s Office, the San Jose Police Department was able to identify the suspect, who left the print on the check. Lee was arrested in Nevada for perpetrating other elder scams and, in July last year, was extradited to Santa Clara County.