A New Jersey man whom police say made thousands of fraudulent phone calls attempting to defraud people of money was arrested Wednesday and charged with bilking a 90-year-old Falmouth woman out of nearly $5,000 after he allegedly called her and falsely told her that her grandson had been arrested for drunken driving.
Rheimy Diaz-Tolentino, 21, of Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested on an extraditable warrant from the Falmouth Police Department, charging him with felony theft by deception and the misdemeanor charges of impersonating a public servant and harassment by telephone, according to a news release from Falmouth Police Lt. John Kilbride.
In July, the woman allegedly received a phone call telling her that her grandson had been arrested for drunken driving. Investigators identified the suspect as Diaz-Tolentino and, working with the Cumberland County district attorney’s office, issued an arrest warrant.
During the investigation, Falmouth detectives located additional victims across the United States.
“He was making thousands of phone calls a month with these types of scams,” Kilbride said Monday. Detectives identified another victim to solidify their case, he said, but believe there are many more out there.
Kilbride said phone scams such as this have become “an epidemic.”
“Just in this community alone, we deal with this quite frequently,” he said. “I can’t imagine, across the state and country, the millions of dollars that have been surrendered.”
Police remind people to remain aware of telephone and email scams, particularly as tax season begins. The Internal Revenue Service initiates most contacts through regular U.S. mail, will not demand any specific type of payment or ask for debit or credit card information over the phone.
“Whatever story they give you on the phone, the delivery of finances should set off bells and whistles,” Kilbride said. “We just ask folks to pump the brakes a little and call local law enforcement and run it by them.”
Diaz-Tolentino awaits extradition to Maine, according to Kilbride.
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