84-year-old Ulster Co. widow allegedly scammed out of $1.7M in international elder abuse scheme
An 84-year-old Ulster County widow is trying to recoup more than a million dollars she lost in an alleged international elder abuse scheme.
Annette Manes, a retired New York state employee, spoke exclusively to News 12 about the ordeal on Wednesday, along with her 47-year-old son, Peter Manes, from her modest home in Highland.
“They asked me to take money out of accounts,” Manes says. “To go to the bank and get cash in hundred-dollar bills and keep it until one of their agents could come to pick it up.”
Manes says two men contacted her first by phone last October and then by text, identifying themselves as representatives from Chase Fraud Services. She says they claimed her account information was stolen by a Chase employee and that they were tasked with an internal investigation on a real federal case, involving Jamaican national Adrian Lawrence, who, at the time, was wanted by the U.S. government in a multimillion-dollar international fraud scheme.
“It just sounded, to me, believable,” says Manes.
The senior citizen says she lost $1.7 million of her life savings and showed News 12 documents of cashed out stocks, five-figure withdrawals and hefty check deposits she made to other accounts, as she says she was instructed to do.
“I was told not to tell, so I followed the directions.”
Her son, who lives in Westport, Connecticut, says the scammers also got ahold of his mother’s credit card information and racked up charges for designer clothes and other pricy items purchased from Panama, Jamaica and Mexico.
“About $100,000 in credit cards and then adding on taxes,” says Peter Manes.
They family alleges on one occasion, a man involved in the scheme came to Manes’ residence to pick up a bag of cash and several iPhones that the scammers instructed her to purchase.
It wasn’t until June that they say one bank caught on and notified Ulster County Adult Protective Services, who then contacted the victim’s son.
“It’s very upsetting,” says Annette Manes. “Why didn’t I recognize it?”
Manes says she had to pay $60,000 in state capital gains taxes this year for the stocks she cashed out for the fraudsters.
News 12 reached out to the New York state Department of Taxation but didn’t immediately hear back.
State police confirm they’re investigating the case. Manes says she also notified the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District.
Manes and her son say they haven’t been able to recoup the money and are fighting with her banks and credit cards. They say one of the cards, Citibank, recently denied their fraud claim.
A representative for Citibank says the bank is researching Manes’ account and will get back to News 12.
“Unfortunately, the laws in what financial institutions are technically required to do has not caught up to this epidemic of elder fraud, and so in a lot of these instances, it’s making it much harder for families,” says Peter Manes.
A representative for Chase also says it is researching Manes’ account and will get back to us with more information.