For release on May 31, 2013
Cherie Bourlard, Deputy District Attorney
Elder Fraud Unit
ELK GROVE WOMAN JAILED FOR TRICKING ELDERLY MAN OUT OF CAR, MONEY, AND HOME
A 30-year-old Elk Grove real estate agent was sentenced to jail today for swindling a heartsick older man out of a Lexus, $200,000 and his Campbell home. Samantha Pham, who the 67-year-old man thought of as his fiancée, gambled most of his money away.
A Campbell police investigation found that she spent $50,000 of the victim’s money paying off a casino debt in Nevada. Since her arrest, six other men – all in Elk Grove - made complaints that she had met them on Match.com and swindled them, too.
Earlier this year, Pham pleaded guilty to various felonies including Theft from an Elder and an allegation of Aggravated White Collar Crime. The Hon. Andrea Y. Bryan sentenced Pham to three years of supervised probation and one year in county jail. As a condition of her probation she is not to engage in the real estate profession, not use dating or internet match sites and she must seek counseling for her gambling addiction.
“The victim in this case ended up bankrupt and heart-broken,’” prosecutor Cherie Bourlard said. “Today, the defendant ended up in jail.”
“Sweetheart scams” - in which people romantically manipulate vulnerable, often elderly, victims into giving up their money – are increasingly being reported in Santa Clara County. Experts say to carefully communicate with single elderly relatives and closely check out people who suddenly come into their lives.
This scam began in April of 2009, when Pham met the victim using the subtext of refinancing his home. She flirted with him to the extent that he gave her his ex-wife’s diamond ring. Pham then suggested that the victim pull out equity to invest in her financial company. The victim bought her a $73,000 Lexus.
Eventually, the victim realized he could no longer afford his home. Pham convinced him to sell it, with Pham pocketing close to $7,000 in a “referral fee.”
By September of 2009, Pham broke off all contact with the elderly man, who had been forced into bankruptcy. He called police. An investigator found that over three years, Pham had gambled away more than $1 million at the Red Hawk Casino in Placerville. After paying the elderly victim in this case restitution in the amount of $250,000, money she says her family put up, she pled guilty.
The other men who made complaints about Pham do not reside in Santa Clara County and ended up pursuing their matters through civil, rather than criminal court.