GREENLAWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two alleged con artists who police say targeted Suffolk County seniors have been arrested thanks to a 90-year-old woman.
Dottie Sundberg, considered a “firecracker” in her Paumanack Village senior apartment community, helped detectives nab the suspects Monday, but not before police say the scammers ripped her off, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
The well-dressed man and woman were going door to door with brochures falsely representating a Shoreham Catholic church, police said. The apartment complex is home to 200 seniors ages 65 and older.
“You have to give,” Sundberg said. “So I save a dollar a day, and at the end of the year, I have 300 bucks, whatever. So I counted out my dollars, and I gave it to them.”
But then the man distracted her and made off with an iPad and a bundle of cash, she said.
Many in the complex that were approached by the duo said the alleged schemers claimed the proceeds would go to diocesan charities for Lenten and Easter celebrations.
“They were very polished,” one woman said. “I know what they were doing.”
“That goes with being a senior,” one man added. “You’re easy prey.”
“She said, ‘Well, we’re here for the church, for Lent, to collect money for the poor, and we only have a short amount of time,” said witness Maria Miranda.
What the suspects didn’t realize is that Sundberg, a retired nurse, had called the cops.
“Immediately — I don’t think it was two minutes — I call the police, and they were here pronto,” Sundberg said.
Sean DiStefano, 24, and Heather Marchese, 23, are charged with a hate crime for targeting the elderly. DiStefano is being held on $75,000 bond, and Marchese is being held on $40,000 bond.
“The people who were targeted were targeted because of their age,” said Detective Sgt. James Brierton of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Hate Crime Squad. “And in New York state, the New York state penal law says if you’re over 60 and you target a person based on that criteria, it ups the crime to a hate crime charge.”
Both of the suspects pleaded not guilty and have hired lawyers.