Watervliet police make arrest in phone scam

WATERVLIET – Police say these scammers are very good at what they do, and they do the research, even sometimes imitating a voice, or they know a family nickname like Pop-pop or Nana.

Arrests are often difficult to make, but police were able to get a suspect in this case.

Police say an 89-year-old man got a call Saturday.

“That this gentleman’s daughter was involved in a motor vehicle crash and that that crash resulted in injury to a pregnant woman,” said Watervliet Police Chief Joseph Centanni. “He was arrested and that they required bail money for her release.”

He gave them $6,500. The scammers asked for more money Monday and this time, police were waiting.

They say 23-year-old Cristian Rodriguez of Connecticut was supposed to pick up the cash. Investigators do not believe he acted alone.

“Almost in every instance in my experience, these are very large-scale operations, that often-times originate in other countries and then come to the United States and there are hubs throughout our country where they are very seasoned, and they send out people to collect this money based on these schemes,” said Chief Centanni.

Police would like to know if he’s stolen from or tried to victimize others.

“A lot of times, vulnerable people or elderly people have a difficult time just hanging up the phone,” said Chief Centanni. “It is a skill, so I would recommend that they even role-play with their family or friends and go over these types of scenarios so at the end of it all, be aware, always be skeptical, and when in doubt, hang up the phone.”

The scam almost involves great time pressure and the victim is told they have to give money immediately.

“My strong recommendation is that they call or contact a family member or someone they can trust to verify the safety of that person they’re calling about,” said the chief.

The “grandparent scam” is flourishing in our area. Johnstown police just put out an alert this week about it.

In July, NewsChannel 13 told you about a case in North Greenbush, in which a man lost $40,000. A man from California was arrested in that case when they say he went to another would-be victim in Colonie.

In the Watervliet case, Rodriguez is facing charges of scheme to defraud, criminal impersonation, and grand larceny — four felonies, in all. He was arraigned and released on an appearance ticket.

“Well, as a general rule, not even so specific to this case, I believe that the courts should be allowed to consider dangerousness,” said Chief Centanni. “The fact that our judges do not have the legal authority to consider dangerousness of offenders when they are considering bail is nonsensical. It’s insane by its very definition.”

Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact Watervliet Police Detectives at 518-270-3892.