Fraud, sexual assaults among recent cases brought before district judges
One day last week, an elderly Massachusetts woman got a call from a stranger claiming to be her son. The caller said he had been in an accident and needed bail money to the tune of $7,500 to get out of the jail. The caller said he had been arrested for DUI.
The woman was instructed to send the cash to a Montoursville home in the 800 block of Weldon St., according to court records filed by borough Deputy Police Chief Jason Bentley.
She sent the cash to the house via FedEx, Bently said, adding it was a typical scam.
However, since the woman wasted no time in notifying her local police department in Westfield that she had been deceived, borough and state police were successful in recovering her cash the very next day and nabbing a New York City man who attempted to pick up the money at the Weldon Street home, Bentley said in an affidavit.
Arrested at the scene was Enmanuel Nunez Taveras, 27, who was taken into custody on felony theft and theft by deception charges.
The woman received the call on the morning Aug. 5 and followed the caller’s instructions to seal the cash in a case and send it to a “Roy Login,” a fake name, at the Weldon Street home, a property that just happened to be vacant, Bentley said.
By the following morning — an officer with the Westfield police who was already working the case — notified Montoursville police that he was “tracking the package and tried to get it stopped, but was unable to do so,” Bentley said.
Bentley then went to the local FedEx office and spoke with the manager, who was successful in getting the package before it was delivered. The officer then obtained an empty package that a state trooper in plainclothes would deliver to the front door of the vacant home.
When the delivery was made at about 11 a.m., Bentley and three other state troopers were nearby out of view. The plainclothes trooper had with him an an open cellphone line so that the other officers could hear everything that was happening.
When he approached the home with the empty package, the trooper saw a man sitting in a Volkswagen at the front of the house. The officer knocked on the door, but there was no answer.
“I could hear the officer speaking with the man in the vehicle. The officer reported the man took possession of the package and complained that it felt empty,” Bentley said.
“The officer pretended to be calling a supervisor. He then asked us on the open line to respond to his location,” Bentley said.
Nunez-Taveras had in his wallet a Social Security card with his name on it as well as a identification card from Dominican Republic.
“The officers detected a strong odor of raw marijuana was coming from the vehicle,” Bentley said, adding that a total of 92 grams of the controlled substance were found in the car, which was impounded.
Besides the theft offenses, Nunez Taveras was arraigned before District Judge Gary Whiteman on charges of receiving stolen property, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Initially committed to the Lycoming County Prison, he has since been released on $25,000 bail.
In a brief interview Thursday afternoon, Bentley warned people against being victimized by such scams.
“Sadly, this happens all the time. There is not legitimate entity that will ask you to send cash in the mail,” he said.
He also advised people against giving out any personal information to strangers on the telephone. Hang up on the caller and notified your local police, he added.
In another case before Whiteman, Colin Smith Jr., 29, of 419 Locust., waived his preliminary hearing on charges of strangulation, simple assault and harassment that stems from a domestic disturbance with his ex-girlfriend in her home on Randall Circle about 6 p.m. on May 16, according to state Trooper Blake Gaines.
Smith allegedly grabbed the woman by the neck and and threw her to the floor twice at 1580 Randall Circle, Gaines said in an affidavit.
As she got up a second time and walked to her bedroom, she told Smith “to leave if he was going to put his hands on her,” but he followed her and grabbed her around the neck a third time, making it difficult for her to breath, Gaines alleged. Initially jailed, Smith is free on $25,000 bail.
Concerning another criminal matter, a month ago, city Patrolman Andrew Stevens charged Latrinda Winter for being “intoxicated to the point that she had passed out and was unresponsive in her bed while her 3-year-old son ran around unattended outside in a diaper,” according to court records. Her infant daughter also had been left unattended in a swing, the officer said.
On Wednesday night Stevens brought the 28-year-old mother before District Judge Lepley on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child after the infant daughter was found “unattended in a rocker with a heavy blanket wrapped around her face,” the officer wrote in an affidavit.
“I’m concerned that I’ll be investigating the death of a child if things don’t change,” Stevens told the judge during her arraignment.
Police were called to the woman’s home at 623 Second St. to assist a caseworker with the county’s Children and Youth Department who was making a visit. No one was answering the door, “but a 3-year-old child kept opening the blinds and looking out,” Stevens said.
The officer knocked on the door several times, but still there was no answer.
“A neighbor chose to scale the roof of the apartment building and yell into an open window. The neighbor was able to awaken Winter, who came downstairs and allowed us inside,” Stevens said.
“Winter, who smelled strongly of alcoholic beverages, stated she did not hear anyone knocking,” Stevens said.
Winter’s infant daughter was in the dining room, wrapped tightly in a blanket in a swing. “The only thing exposed outside the blanket was a hand,” the officer said. A relative took custody of both children.
Winter was jailed in lieu of $15,000 bail.
In another case, Samuel Page, 39, of 22 Lycoming Creek Road Extension, Trout Run, faces sex charges for allegedly molesting a child under age of 10 this summer in Hepburn Township, according to county Detective William Weber.
Arraigned before District Judge Christian Frey on felony charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure, Smith was jailed without bail.
In another sex case, District Judge Jerry Lepley ruled there was sufficient evidence to hold Todd Lape, 53, of Lock Haven, on charges of sexual assault, indecent assault and harassment stemming from an incident with a female acquaintance in Jersey Shore on May 27, according to court records.
The charges were filed by the Tiadaghton Valley Regional police. Lape is free on $35,000 bail following his recent preliminary hearing.
Motorist Charles Lynch, 59, of 723 Grier St., was also free on bail after he was arraigned this week on state police charges of DUI, careless driving and driving with a suspended license stemming from a two-vehicle crash at South Pine and Youngs roads in Woodward Township on June 6.
Lynch admitted to Trooper Peter Dunchick that 30 minutes before the 6:30 p.m. crash, he consumed his last of four alcoholic drinks at a nearby graduation party. His blood-alcohol content level was .08, the trooper said. Bail in this case was $1,500.
In another case, Joshua Hintson, 31, of 2230 Reed St., is free on $5,000 bail after he was held for court on charges of accidents involving damage to attended vehicle and driving with a suspended license following a hit-run accident in the 1900 block of East Third Street about 7 p.m. on May 19, state Trooper Garrett Shnyder said.
After backing into Valerie McDonald’s Dodge Avenger, Hinston allegedly took off in his 2001 Jeep Cherokee, but was later tracked down at his Loyalsock Township home.