2003-02-06 / Top Stories

Senior Warns Others About Robbery Scam

By Neil S. Friedman

By Neil S. Friedman

A knock at the door. An average looking woman with a pleasant face is standing there when you open it. She smiles and hands you your mail.

"Hi, I’m your neighbor from across the street. The mailman just put these in your box and I thought I’d give them to you."

If this happens to you, a word of warning — BEWARE. You may be being set up to become the victim of a clever scam.

First of all, unless you okay anyone to retrieve your mail, it is a federal offense and it’s highly unlikely your postal person will give your mail to an unfamiliar person.

The amiable stranger then proceeds to engage you in a conversation about how her mother has the same ethnic background as you. She then starts talking about things with which you may be familiar.

Rather than stand in the doorway, letting the cold air rush into your comfortable apartment, you invite the friendly woman into your home. For the next couple of hours the two of you have a pleasant conversation about family, food and the weather.

Unbeknownst to you while your attention is focused on the chatty visitor, her partner-in-crime quietly enters your home and silently goes to your bedroom to take whatever valuables and cash may be handy. Shortly after the accomplice departs, the woman offers an excuse and leaves.

Later, when you walk into your bedroom, you realize thousands of dollars of valuable jewelry and precious keepsakes are missing.

This is not some scripted scene from a novel, movie or television drama. It is a true story that happened in the heart of Canarsie to a longtime resident.

Stella Palesi, an elderly woman who has lived on East 91 Street for nearly half a century, was the victim of this scam on January 28. She reported the incident to the police who are investigating.

This week, she came to the Canarsie Courier to make her story public, hoping it doesn’t happen to another unsuspecting person.

Senior citizens, like Palesi, are often victims of rip-offs and fraud. Clever confidence artists often prey on the elderly who tend to be trusting and not as guarded as other age groups.

When Palesi spoke to the Courier, she was distraught, not so much about the value of the stolen jewelry, which she said was worth "thousands of dollars," but for some of its sentimental value, including some pieces that belonged to her late husband.

The trusting victim even said that while she was engaged in conversation her dog began acting up, but the visitor quickly distracted the pet with a treat so it would not alert its owner about the second stranger in the house.

Detectives from the 69th Precinct interviewed the victim at home last week and had her look through books with photographs of known con artists. Palesi said she identified the woman who sat with her for two hours, but not the accomplice, whom she never even knew was in her house.

The NYPD provides information about avoiding scams that target senior citizens. Anyone interested in obtaining tips or material should contact 69th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Daniel MacBride at 1-718-257-6205.

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