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Police: Fraudster targeted handicapped senior citizen, took nearly $9,000

It started, police say, when the man approached an 89-year-old woman in a parking lot outside the Leisure World retirement community in Montgomery County. He offered to paint over a small scratch on her Buick, one with a handicapped parking permit on the mirror, for $200.

When it was over, more than a month later, he had swindled her out of more than $8,900, according to arrest records.

Police on Friday identified the suspect as Michael Adams, 34, who has been charged with felony theft and using “deception, intimidation and undue influence” to steal from a vulnerable adult. Adams is due in court Aug. 28 to face the charges.

His scheme, police say, began March 28 in a parking lot off George Avenue near Leisure World, which isn’t a retirement community per se — many residents who live there still hold jobs. Leisure World calls itself an “age-restricted community.”

Adams first offered to paint the scratch for “a couple of hundred dollars,” according to arrest records. The woman, a longtime resident of Leisure World, said the price was too high, and they settled on $100.

Michael Adams (Montgomery County Police Department)

“Adams also convinced [the victim] that she needed a part for her car and would give her a price for repairs at a later time,” court records state.

They agreed to meet in the same parking lot about a week later, when Adams said the repairs would cost between $3,000 and $4,000 for parts and labor.

The woman said the price was too high, prompting Adams to tell her that the prices of auto parts had gone up recently, according to arrest records.

At the time, another person was with Adams and was painting the car.

That person, along with Adams, told the victim that they could do the repairs at a later date in a nearby Home Depot parking lot.

On May 1, the victim and Adams again met in the parking lot outside Leisure World.

He demanded that she pay him $5,000 for his services.

The victim, in a later conversation with a detective, said she was “scared to death” and told Adams that she would have to go to banks to withdraw cash. She got $1,500 from a Bank of America location and $3,500 from a Sandy Spring Bank. But at some point, Adams appears to have increased the rate.

The victim then went to a CVS in Aspen Hill and purchased gift cards for Adams totaling nearly $4,000.

Adams could not be reached to comment Friday. Court records do not indicate whether he has an attorney.

Arrest records show that detectives pieced together their case partly through a cellphone linked to Adams’s girlfriend, who told them that she let him borrow it. Detectives also watched video surveillance at the CVS, which showed the woman and Adams entering the store together and the woman buying the gift cards.

Other than the small paint job, according to arrest records, Adams didn’t do any repairs on the car.

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Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.



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