Baltimore police have arrested two women and three men accused of posing as city tax collectors and violently robbing elderly people in their homes.
Tierra McCoy and Vaneka Powers, both of Baltimore, have been charged with robbery, conspiracy and attempted extortion, said Sgt. Sarah Connolly, the lead detective on the case. McCoy is being held on $1 million bail, and Powers has been denied bail, Connolly said.
Brothers Christopher Pasco and James Pasco and Michael Fields, who are accused of stealing the money from the victims' homes, have also been charged with robbery.
"They epitomize the definition of cowardice," said city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "It is troubling what these people have done, for a very long time, to our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents. People that we hold in very high regard have been truly victimized."
According to police records, Powers told detectives that McCoy is her sister and their mother taught them how to execute schemes. Powers told police that she only acted as an adviser to McCoy, who called the elderly victims after finding numbers in an online phone book.
Police said victims of the scheme received a call from a woman claiming to be from the city tax agency who told them they owed a payment. The victims were told to expect a visit from a sheriff in the next couple of hours, police said, and were threatened with immediate eviction if they did not pay.
McCoy told police that she would send James Pasco, her boyfriend, who lives in Baltimore, Christopher Pasco or Fields, also of Baltimore, to pick up the money, police records show. McCoy said in the past that the robberies had been carried out peacefully but that in one case James Pasco had tied up a Dundalk victim with a phone cord, according to the records.
Recently, the robberies became increasingly violent. Police began sending out warnings about the scheme last week, but the robberies continued over the weekend. The victims — one as old as 94 — were pushed and slapped, and one had a towel put over her head, Connolly said. Most were robbed of thousands of dollars, she added.
Police records show that the suspects were arrested after the nephew of one of the intended victims alerted police to a suspicious call from someone claiming to be a "Ms. Wallace" from the tax department. Detectives were then able to trace the phone used to make the call to Powers and McCoy.
In all, Connolly said, police are aware of 10 incidents, have confessions relating to seven and are confident they have all the people involved in custody.
Victims of the scheme reached by The Baltimore Sun declined to comment.
In 2002, Powers was convicted of a similar scheme, The Sun reported at the time. She posed as a representative of Medicare, claiming the victim's benefits would be denied, or of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co, telling the victims their service would be shut off. The scheme earned Powers $34,000, including $25,000 from one woman.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times