NEW YORK CITY — A group of fraudsters pose as police officers to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from two dozen elderly victims — mostly on the Upper East Side — in a three-year spree, an NYPD spokesman said.
Between June 2011 and November 2013, the bogus officers called their victims on the phone and claimed they needed to withdraw money to assist in a police investigation, the NYPD said. They then met with the victims in person to collect the money — $428,760 in all, police said.
Police indicated Thursday that only one man was behind the scheme, but NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday morning that investigators believe it is a group acting in concert.
"They say they're calling from the police department and they give them various reasons why they need to withdraw money and provide it to the department," Kelly said during a press conference.
"In one case, it was related that one of the victim's daughters was arrested and she needed money," the commissioner added.
The caller managed to convince the victims, whose ages range from 73 to 98, to hand over large sums of money — as high as $30,000 in one instance, police said.
They then arranged a code word for the meetings and victims later told investigators that they didn't think the person they met with was the same as the one who called earlier, police said.
Thirteen of the victims were from the Upper East Side, and there were nine victims from other neighborhoods across the city, the NYPD said.
Surveillance footage shows one of the suspects wearing a hat and a coat with its collar pulled up on Nov. 18 about 6 p.m., three hours after he took money from a 98-year-old Upper East Side woman, police said.
Three days later and in the same neighborhood, he or another member of the group stole from a 77-year-old woman about 4 p.m., the NYPD said.
The NYPD internal affairs bureau's police impersonation unit is investigating the thefts, a police spokesman said.
"You have to be aware in this day and age," Kelly said. "The police department would never ask anyone for money."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).