Police in Jacksonville have released a sketch of a man sought in connection with posing as an officer and scamming an 84-year-old woman.
Police said earlier this month the woman was conned by a man claiming to be Capt. Frank Mueller of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
The man asked the woman for her assistance on a case where police had a person in custody.
JSO spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda said the man knew much of the victim's personal information beforehand, giving the impression the call must be genuine.
"This victim -- he knew her name, her address, where she did banking at and he actually knew her son's name," Bujeda said. "And by giving those four key indicators, she thought, 'This guy must know everything about me. You know, this must be legit.'"
When asked if the woman had recently withdrawn money, she told the poser she had and gave him the serial numbers of the three bills after he asked for them. The man then told her that the money was part of an organized crime of counterfeit money investigation.
While the victim was on the phone with the man, he placed her on hold several times, telling her that he was confirming with the district attorney.
The man told the victim that the tellers were involved in the crime and directed the woman to withdraw $25,000 from her account and meet him on Emerson Street. The victim claimed the man made it sound like the money was coming from somewhere other than her account.
Before meeting, the man told the victim to wear a red scarf so that the undercover detective at the bank could recognize her. He then directed her to let the teller know since they were involved in a counterfeit case, the money was for her son to purchase a car with.
When the woman left the bank, she drove around looking for the address to meet the man, but could not find it. The man then called her and met her in an unknown parking lot.
When the two met in the parking lot, the man told the victim their password, showed her his badge and she handed the money over to him. He asked her if she had touched the money and she told him she had not.
"He was very slick. He knew what to say, he knew how to talk. She firmly believed that he was a law enforcement officer," Bujeda said.
The victim later received a call from the man thanking her for her help and notifying her that two tellers from the bank were arrested.
After telling her son about the incident, the elderly woman called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and found out there is no Capt. Frank Mueller employed with JSO.
Officials now believe there may be two men who have found a way to route their calls to look like they are coming from an official number.
One has been described as a black man with light hair and a beard and wearing a gray pullover jacket and pants.
JSO released a few tips in how to dodge scammers:
- Do not ever give out your financial information over the phone. If a caller continues to ask for the information, hang up the phone.
- Never assume a caller is genuine just because they hold some information, such as: your name, address and account details to try to make the call appear legitimate.
- Verify the identity of any caller -– call the business using a phone number you have found yourself in the phone book or Internet.
- Law enforcement agencies and banks do not conduct financial crime investigations by asking a customer to withdraw cash from an account.
- Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t sound right to you, it probably isn’t. Hang up the phone.
Anyone with any information about the man's identity is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.