Nutley PD nab 2 who got extra greedy in ‘Grandma I need bail money’ scam

Police in Nutley caught two people who pulled a “grandma I need bail money scam,” initially got away with it, but then decided to be greedy, leading to their eventual demise.

Police Director Alphonse Petracco and Chief Thomas Strumolo say on Thursday, Aug. 19, a Nutley woman, 62, received a phone call from a young woman claiming to be her granddaughter. She told grandmother she had just been involved in an accident and her attorney would be contacting her.

After a few minutes, a man she believed to be her granddaughter’s attorney contacted her, who reportedly said bail money would need to be posted or her granddaughter would be locked up.

In a state of panic, the woman withdrew several thousand dollars and met a man she believed to be a bail bondsman at a Passaic Avenue convenience store in Nutley. She told police he was wearing a suit, took the cash and handed her a receipt.

The next day, Friday, Aug. 20, upon speaking with her granddaughter, she realized she had been scammed and her granddaughter was never involved in an crash, which is when she reported the incident to police.

The same day, she received another call from the same actor, requesting even more money to be paid at the same location. But this time, the suspects didn’t get to meet the innocent grandma — instead, it was Nutley detectives waiting in the area to arrest the two men, one of whom was the one who took the cash a day earlier.

Police arrested Kevin Villalona, 21, and Juan Cleto-Diaz, 22, both of Passaic and charged them with conspiracy. Villalona was additionally charged with theft by deception.

Both were later released on their own recognizance, pending court.

Strumolo says this is a popular fraud because many grandparents hear a troubled voice and cannot determine whether it’s actually their relative.

“In addition to becoming alarmed and concerned, many are unable to think clearly and withdraw or send money without checking with their family first,” Strumolo said.

Petracco commended officers for the apprehension, and warns everyone there are criminals who would not hesitate for any reason about taking your money.

“Please check with family or police before providing personal information, withdrawing money or sending funds to anyone who calls, emails or contacts you without first verifying who they are,” Petracco said.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.