Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned members of the Springfield Rotary Club Monday to be wary of scam artists looking to make easy money.
“We’ve always had scam artists,” DeWine said during his visit to the Hollenbeck-Bayley Conference Center. But the Internet now provides them with “a long arm” that allows them to “reach out across many states” to prey on their victims.
Retired teacher Bob Weidner told the audience he didn’t wire money to his grandson in Texas as the result of a phone call made to him six weeks before.
But the guest of Rotarian John Recknagel testified about the skill of people perpetrating the scam DeWine had described moments before.
The caller “sounded exactly like my grandson,” the 80-year-old Weidner said.
Only a cell phone call to his wife confirmed the grandson was not talking to him, said Weidner, because he was, at that moment, talking to his grandmother.
DeWine, who started his political career as Greene County Prosecutor and has since been a state senator, Congressman, lieutenant governor and U.S. Senator, talked like a man retired Congressman and fellow Republican Dave Hobson said was “doing a job I think he was born to do.”
DeWine returned an off-handed compliment to Hobson by saying he was unlikely to have been drawn into a couple in Coshocton’s scam of selling fake Lady Gaga tickets online, jesting that, on the other hand, Republican State Rep. Bob Hackett “might go to a Lady Gaga concert.”
DeWine said charity scams also proliferate, including one his office investigated that led to an arrest in California of “a guy who was so good he had his picture taken with George Bush.”
At the time of his arrest for defrauding people of money he said was for veterans, DeWine said, the scammer who had worked in 45 states had one suitcase with $1 million in cash, a second with 20 disguises and a collection of 15 false IDs.
DeWine also touched on darker criminal matters when he told the story of a man in Akron who had been luring people to work on his farm only to murder them, and the difficult problem of the shifting landscape of drug addiction in the state.
The good news, he said, is that his office and other law enforcement have made progress in shutting down pill mills that led to a spike in prescription drug addition in the state.
“The bad news,” he added, “is that people who can no longer get prescription drugs have been pushed over into heroin.”
“We lose five Ohioans every day” to drug overdose, he said, a problem he said ultimately can be solved only by people digging in on the local level.
DeWine said the state has made progress against career criminals through legislation requiring that every person charged with a felony submit a DNA sample to police. Although controversial among civil liberties activists, DeWine said the program is part of a national database that helps convict many people of past crimes that otherwise would have gone unsolved.
He said one of the things he’s most proud of is speeding up the speed with which the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, an arm of office, is processing DNA evidence, something he credited to bringing in private sector companies in to give advice.
He also said the lab’s pushing ahead to test untested rape kits languishing in local departments has both led to arrests and helped investigators by linking DNA evidence in unsolved involving serial rapists.
DeWine also touched on investigations on Medicaid fraud involving care being needed and charged for but not given, and also on his office’s returning money to local communities to help knock down vacant homes that are harming neighborhoods in the fallout of the housing crisis.
It’s the variety of problems that come to the attorney general’s office DeWine said makes him love his job.
“Every day there’s a crisis. Every day someone’s messing up somewhere.”
How to get involved
To report a scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, go to www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov or call 1-800-282-0515.