Couple scammed of more than $100,000

Couple scammed of more than $100,000

RANTOUL — Chuck Padilla admits that he led with his heart rather than his head. As a result, he and his wife are $109,000 poorer.

The Padillas are the victims of a scam that robbed them of their life savings. They wanted to tell their story so other people won't suffer the same fate.

The Padillas have enlisted the aid of the Rantoul Police Department and the FBI after the fact. It is unknown if they will be able to retrieve any of their money.

The story begins in early August when one of the Padillas' supposed grandsons, Brian Padilla, who lives in France, called them saying he needed money. But it wasn't their grandson, and the culprit made off with thousands of dollars — the Padillas' life savings, and then some.

It's a mystery for the Rantoul couple, who can't understand how the scammers could imitate their grandson's voice so closely and knew so much about them.

"It sounded just exactly like him," Padilla, who is 84, said. "My wife (Nancy, who is 80) talked to him and asked him questions" and was also fooled.

Somehow, Chuck Padilla said, the caller knew not only how their grandson talked but also a lot about him and his family.

The fictitious grandson lured the Padillas into feeling sorry for him by telling them he had been invited to Mexico City to attend the wedding of a friend — a buddy he had gone to school with at the University of Illinois. But there was a problem. The caller told his "grandpa" that he had been in an accident and needed $2,000. He had hit a woman's car and supposedly had been drunk.

So, Chuck Padilla wired the money to him, only to have the caller ring back the next day, saying he needed $2,000 more for a retainer on a lawyer.

"I was told he was being held separate from the general population in jail, and he had a lawyer appointed by the (U.S.) Embassy because they have them available in case Americans get in trouble in Mexico," Padilla said. "So I believed it."

Padilla is familiar with Mexico. A native of Chicago, he and his family moved to Mexico after his parents bought an orchard there. They moved back to the U.S. when he was 12 years old.

But Padilla learned how prisoners were treated in Mexican jails if they had no family to help them. He said those prisoners were put in a "bull ring" with other prisoners and didn't get fed.

He doesn't know if that is still the case in Mexico, but he didn't want his grandson to experience it.

"The lawyer talked to me and said, 'We're trying to keep him separate from the (general) population and trying to keep it secret from the judge (that he had been drinking while driving),'" Padilla said.

He later received a call from the "grandson" saying the woman's car he had totaled was worth $45,000. Padilla also wired that amount to Mexico.

And then a request for another $60,000 came Aug. 15 because the car he had struck had done damage to a neighboring building. The money was needed before he would be released from jail. Padilla sent that amount as well.

Padilla said the caller knew exactly how his grandson talks — how when he gets excited he talks rapidly and it's difficult to get a word in edgewise.

The caller did just that, and at one point Padilla had to say "'Brian, shut up!'" so he could talk to him.

At one point Nancy Padilla told the "grandson" that he was going to call his wife in France. The "grandson" asked them not to call any family members because it would upset them.

But Nancy Padilla did it anyway. When she called the grandson's wife in France, where their grandson works as an architectural engineer near Paris, it was the grandson who answered.

Nancy Padilla was surprised.

"Well, they let you go already," she said.

The grandson said he didn't know what she was talking about. He had never left France.

They got a sinking feeling. The couple had been dealing with scam artists.

Looking back they realize they should have noticed the warning signs — statements not to call other relatives; the fact that the grandson was driving in Mexico when he always takes public transportation in France and can't drive well; and that the grandson was drunk when he actually doesn't drink much.

"We should have picked up on it right there," Nancy Padilla said.

The Padillas tried to see if there is any way to track the money but haven't been successful. Chuck Padilla even called a bank in England through which the money was routed. They attempted to stop the $60,000 payment and learned it had gone out just 30 minutes before.

"I'm going to continue to call the bank in England," Padilla said. "They have a special unit that investigates scams.

"I hope the $60,000 is being held somewhere and that they did not collect it."

Padilla sent the first two $2,000 payments via Western Union. The second two he made through his bank.

He said when a bank official questioned him about wiring such a large payment, he told them it was an investment.

"I lied," Padilla said.

Padilla has also been trying to contact the person whose car his faux grandson supposedly hit — a businesswoman from England. He now doesn't believe she even exists.

Padilla has sought a record of his phone calls but was told that he would have to secure a subpoena before the phone company would do that.

As for the Padillas' life savings, that is gone with the wind, Chuck Padilla said.

"I've been rat-holing money for a long time" to leave to his wife for when he dies, Padilla said, noting that his wife didn't even know he had the money saved.

To make matters worse, Padilla borrowed $20,000 to wire the full $60,000. Now the couple will also be paying off that loan.

Padilla, who is retired from the Air Force, is a spry man for his age. He still does landscaping work and odd jobs, bringing in money.

Police Chief Paul Farber urged anyone who gets a call asking for large amounts of money to contact police.

If someone supposedly is in jail, police can track that information, he said. They can also give advice on possible scams.

"The key is to call police," Farber said.

Padilla said most senior citizens who are the victim of scam artists are too embarrassed to publicize it. They often don't even tell police.

But he wanted to publicize it in the hope that it won't happen to anyone else.

"I normally don't lead with my heart," Padilla said. "This time I guess old age or whatever you want to call it, I led with my heart and was stupid."

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (2):scam, Dave Hinton

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alabaster jones 71 wrote on November 14, 2012 at 10:11 am
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What an awful story to read about.  Preying on the elderly is about as low as it gets.

These two sound like very nice folks.  Hopefully their money is found and returned.

CharacterCounts wrote on November 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

This is not an unusual story.  People in the Champaign-Urbana area have been victims of telephone scams for years.  Never ever wire money to anyone without talking to family members and trusted bankers, accountants or attorneys.  Anyone wanting you to keep the matter confidential or secret may be committing a fraud with you being the victim.  Often the amount initially requested is not very large, but it increases over time.  Occasionally, scammers who have knowledge of you being scammed will call and advise they know you have been scammed and they can recover your money but need money up front.  Again, never send them any money.

If a caller request you to send cash or a money order and use a mailing service other than the U.S. Postal Service, be aware this may be a scam.  Criminals often believe they have a better chance avoiding arrest if FedEx or U.S. Parcel Service is used rather than the U.S. Postal Service, so again, be alert for these signs of possible fraud.

If you believe you have been defrauded via the telephone, contact the local police or the FBI.  If you have been defrauded via the mail, contact the Postal Inspection Service.

If merchandise or investments are involved, I opine that everyone should deal locally and not with someout you have never met.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You can't get anything for nothing or almost nothing and you will not get a large rate of return if it is legitimate. 

My heart goes out to these folks as I know of several others in the area who have been victimized by fraud via the telephone.  The criminals are real good talkers and sound so convincing that it is really hard when you learn you have been a victim of fraud.  Some never accept that they have been a victim and believe they will get what they have been promised on the telephone at some time in the future regardless of what law enforcement may tell them.

This is a well written article and provides the background for others to be alert so as to not become another victim of fraud. 

americanproud wrote on November 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I hope the criminal is caught and sentenced to a very bad prison for a very long time.  As bad a prison as they can find for him.  In the meantime, he will most likely continue his get-rich-quick scheme with other trusting, unsuspecting, generous people.

I'm so, so sorry for the Padillas.  Mr. Padilla shouldn't feel "stupid," as he refers to himself because he had every reason to believe he was really talking to his grandson.  It is not Mr. Padilla's fault.  He believed he was helping his grandson. 

Zim wrote on November 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My first thought was it was the grandson who scammed them. Then the bank here questioned them doing this, then he lied. Did they ever think to call the grandson sooner of maybe another family member before writing checks for $45,000 and $60,000? 

rsp wrote on November 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Scam artists take advantage of the fact that people trust. This man had every reason to trust his grandson. How would they call his grandson if they believed he was in a prison? They couldn't. The caller said not to call anyone else. They didn't because they trusted their grandson. Oh, he probably lied to the bank to keep from having any delays in getting the money to his grandson. So, if he trusts his grandson, thinks he is talking to him, should he call someone else to see if the grandson is ripping him off? Keep in mind they started small and then went for larger amounts of cash. 

Zim wrote on November 15, 2012 at 2:11 am

Yes they should have called someone else. They should have called the US Ebassy. If I was a cop I'd be talking to the Grandson.

jdmac44 wrote on November 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Hmm, I wonder if the grandson used Skype or some other kind of VOIP that the scam artist could have hacked and listened in on to learn how he spoke?  Scary stuff!

americanproud wrote on November 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Jdmac44 has an interesting theory.  In this age of high tech, almost anything is possible.  I suppose it would be possible for someone to hack into a Skype conversation. 

I agree with rsp that the grandparents had every reason to believe it was, indeed, their grandson on the phone.  It's easy for us on this board to feel that we wouldn't fall for such a scam, but who's to know for sure?  When we're elderly and we're honest, hard-working people who love our families....I can see how it could happen. 

I hope this story is broadcast all over the country.  It might save some other nice person from suffering the same fate. 

Zim wrote on November 15, 2012 at 2:11 am

Did the kid have parents? Did the grandparents think to call them? I'd be pissed if my kid was in jail in mexico and my parents didn't tell me about it. Just cutting huge checks to pay for car wrecks. Then sending them to england? 

welive wrote on November 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm

just my own opioinon how could some one be that, well how do SAY in english??


dd1961 wrote on November 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

My in-laws got this type of phone call.  The caller said he was their grandson and that he was in trouble in Canada and they needed to send him money to help him out.  It really shook them up because the caller knew lots about their grandson and was extremely believable.  Luckily they called their grandson's wife who said, um no, he is at work here in Bloomington.  They have gotten several other scam calls in the past 6 months trying to get their accounts, or credit cards.  Scammer are definately targeting the elderly.  One time they called when my sister-in-law was visiting.  She got on the phone and started hitting them hard with questions...they hung up.

Zim wrote on November 15, 2012 at 9:11 am

I tell my Mom to never believe anything when people call and just hang up.