Pa. prosecutors charge 4 in ‘grandparent scam’

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has charged four people for their roles in telephone scams that allegedly took money from elderly victims who believed their grandchildren were in trouble.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane said a grand jury recommended the charges against 29-year-old Spencer Compas and 38-year-old Witson Lavilette of Philadelphia, 37-year-old Johanne Wesh of Abington, and 38-year-old Kens Wesh of Brooklyn, New York.

The four allegedly took part in a so-called “grandparent scam” that stole at least $162,600 and attempted to steal at least $37,325 more from elderly victims across the country, Kane said.

According to the grand jury presentment, a 77-year-old California man was scammed out of $6,600 by a caller who claimed to be an attorney for his grandson, who supposedly had been arrested for DUI in Philadelphia.

When the scammers called for an additional $10,000, the victim realized he had been scammed and his grandson was never arrested.

The man contacted authorities who set up a sting and arrested Compas as he was waiting to receive a package that purportedly contained $10,000 from the victim.

Compas told the grand jury that Lavilette asked him to provide addresses in Philadelphia for the delivery of money, and Kens Wesh allegedly recruited Lavilette and his sister, Johanne, to be part of the scam.

Kane said the nine-month investigation identified 11 seniors in eight states as known victims, including a woman from Texas who was defrauded of $64,000.

She said the full scope of the scheme is still unknown and the investigation is ongoing. Authorities are looking for other victims and believe there could be many more across the country.

Each of the co-defendants faces two counts of corrupt organizations and one count each of criminal conspiracy, identity theft and theft by deception.

Compas, Lavilette and Johanne Wesh are each being held on $1 million bail. Kens Wesh remains at large and is believed to be in New York City.

Anyone who believes they were scammed by the co-defendants after sending or being asked to send money to an address in Philadelphia, Abington or Bronx should call the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section in Norristown at 610-631-5937.

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