Malden man charged in Hanover grandparent scheme

HANOVER, Mass. — A Malden man is accused of scheming to steal $8,000 from an elderly woman in Hanover, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz announced Tuesday.

James Charles, 49, pleaded not guilty in Hingham District Court Monday to one count each of larceny over $1,200 by false pretense and larceny over $250 from a person over 60. Charles was also charged with two counts of money laundering and conspiracy.

Prosecutors say the Hanover resident called police on April 16 to report she had received what appeared to be a fraudulent phone call from a man claiming to be a family member in need of urgent help.

The alleged family member reported he had been arrested in New Hampshire. He then turned the phone over to another man who identified himself as an “attorney” and told the victim he needed $8,000 to post bail for her alleged family member.

The alleged attorney arranged to send a courier pick up the cash. The victim followed the instructions given and a courier arrived to pick up the money.

The victim said she requested a call back from the alleged attorney, but never got one.

After confirming the whereabouts of her family member, the victim determined she was schemed out of $8,000 and contacted the Hanover Police Department.

Hanover Police Detective Stephen Moar extensively investigated the case and determined probable cause existed to charge Charles as the organizer of the scheme. Moar sought and obtained an arrest warrant for Charles, who turned himself into Hingham District Court on Monday.

Prosecutors requested Charles be held on $200,000 with the conditions he surrender his passport, wear a GPS monitoring electronic bracelet and stay away and have no contact with the victim in the case.

The judge set bail at $5,000 and ordered Charles to stay away from the victim.

Charles is due back in court on January 19 relating to the Hanover case.

Cruz has worked to warn people, especially those who are elderly, to be cautious and wary of potential scams. He warns people to use extreme caution when sharing their personal or financial information over the phone or online. Anyone who believes they have been scammed or their information has been compromised should contact their local police department.

“Coronavirus and social distancing are not going to stop those determined to take advantage of unsuspecting victims out to steal a person’s vital personal and financial information,” Cruz said in a statement. “During this pandemic, we are all working daily to stay health and safe, and we need to practice the same vigilance every time we pick up the phone and while operating online.”

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued an alert last week about “concerning tactics being employed by scammers” who target elderly people. He said in the past, the scammers would request their victims wire money to a bank account or transfer funds electorally. However, residents have recently reported the scammers arraigning for the in-person pick-up of money of other valuable items directly from the victims' homes.

“This represents a new and dangerous threat to New Hampshire residents,” MacDonald said.