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Thousands scammed from grieving families.

August 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Detectives say two men allegedly posed as Sheriff's deputies and scammed grieving families out of thousands of dollars.Detectives say 42-year-old Frank Kegel of Simi Valley and 22-year-old Martin Pelayo pretended to be Sheriff's detectives to intimidate and scam more than $60,000 from two grieving families who had lost their sons.

In the first case, authorities say the suspects scammed a family who lost their 27-year-old son to a heart attack. The young man died in his home. The suspects allegedly promised to the family that if the family paid them over $20,000, they would avoid a bogus neglect charge.

"The son had a heart condition and it was definitely tragic that he passed away while he was at home alone. But, no, they were not guilty of anything," said Shiara Davila, Los Angeles District Attorney Spokesperson.

In another case, the suspects allegedly pressured a family into giving them $40,000 to reopen a murder investigation into their son's year-old stabbing death.

"The family was definitely duped," said Davila.

Authorities say the suspects targeted Spanish-speaking victims. They also say the suspects met their victims at the Sheriff's Training Academy and Regional Services Center in Whittier, to ensure the victims that they were a part of law enforcement.

If questioned at the training facility, authorities say the suspects would produce recruitment materials and say that they were on campus to be deputies. They even, allegedly, had a phony badge to further fool the victims.

"Because the victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, I believe at least one of the suspects did speak Spanish fluently," said Davila. "For the average person, they're not familiar with the criminal justice system. And so, when you have a language barrier, it definitely makes things worse."

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office says authorities arrested Kegel and Pelayo after receiving tips. The suspects were allegedly scamming people between September and November.

The suspects face several charges including obtaining money by false pretenses, grand theft, and an unlawful use of a badge.

 

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