Hundreds of victims of a statewide fraud scam are now getting restitution checks in the mail, including 91-year-old Jessie Penner and her husband. NBC 7’s Consumer Bob offers valuable advice on how you can make sure you’re not the next victim of a similar scam.
After falling prey to a scam, San Diego resident Jessie Penner never thought she would get her money back. But now, the 91-year-old former school teacher is cashing a check for $23,827.73.
"It's just wonderful because I didn't expect to get anything back," said Penner.
Penner and her husband gave scammer Michael Woodward more than $100,000 for home health care and assisted living insurance. But investigators say Woodward and his wife, Melissa Woodward, were selling phony insurance plans.
"He had charisma," said Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry. "And charisma will get you far in whatever profession you have, particularly as a con man."
Zachry says Woodward took money from 279 people in San Diego County and even more across the state. Now, the District Attorney's office is trying to return some of that stolen money to victims of the fraud scam through restitution checks.
"I'm hoping that by the end of both disbursements, every victim in the state will receive at least 50 percent of their loss," said Zachry.
The money is coming from Woodward's bank accounts and by selling his homes, art work and jewelry he purchased using money from the insurance scheme he operated.
Penner still blames herself for handing over the money.
"I don't think I should have taken it hook, line and sinker," she lamented.
Zachry says seniors need to get second opinions when they enter into any financial agreements. They also shouldn't let salesmen in the door. And, especially, they should not feel pressured to sign a contract. The best thing is to talk to friends, financial advisers and family before handing over anything.
So, how does Penner feel about people who would take advantage of seniors?
"They are the lowest people in the world," she said.