A Brooklyn man has been convicted of scamming a then-90-year-old man out of $20,000 in a fake jail bail scheme and had him send the money to a Glendale address, prosecutors announced Friday.
After a two-week long trial, George Etienne, 27, was found guilty of third-degree criminal possession of stolen property and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Etienne, who claims to be a member of the Sovereign Nation and not subject to the laws of New York state, is due to return to court for sentencing on March 28, where he faces up to 7 years in prison.
“The defendant in this case partnered with one or more others utilizing a phone, acting skills and fake identification to con an elderly man out of $20,000 cash,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan. “A jury weighed all the evidence – including the testimony via video link of the victim who was too frail to travel from California to Queens for the trial – and found the defendant guilty. The defendant is going to prison now for this loathsome con game.”
According to trial testimony, in November 2017, the then-90-year-old victim, who lives in California, received a call from someone pretending to be his grandson. The caller told the victim that he had struck a woman with his car and was being held in prison.
Switching to a disguised voice or a second individual got on the phone with the victim pretending to be his “grandson’s” lawyer and told the victim to send $20,000 in cash within the pages of a magazine and mail the money via FedEx to a fake name and provided an address in Glendale. The victim was also instructed to not require a signature for receipt of the package.
The victim overnighted the money to the Glendale address, and per the caller’s instructions, did not tell any family members about the car incident or that his grandson was in jail. The now 91-year-old victim, who was unable to travel to the trial due to his poor health and to tend to his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease, testified via closed circuit television that he would have done anything to help his grandson.
Trial testimony stated that Etienne waited outside the Glendale address the next day. When the FedEx driver arrived to the address, Etienne approached the driver and requested the package, showing him a Pennsylvania driver’s license with the fake name along with a Pennsylvania address on it.
The FedEx driver refused to hand it over, delivering it to the address on the package by placing it in the slot of the house. Etienne waited for the driver to leave and then went to the address and knocked on the door. He told the person at the home that a package for him was delivered to the address by mistake and the resident gave Etienne the package.
Trial records indicate that officers from the 104th Precinct were in the area and observed Etienne retrieving the package from the Glendale home. Officers stopped Etienne, who presented the fake ID to them. Police recognized the identification as fake and took Etienne and the package into custody.