Crooks targeting grandparents, including Tampa police officer’s grandfather

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a familiar crime with a new twist this holiday season. Tampa police say crooks are prying on the emotions of grandparents who would do anything to help their grandchildren.

The crime is carried out in a phone call, with crooks telling grandparents to send money, usually a gift card.

In fact, this weekend alone three separate cases popped up in Tampa, now being investigated by the Tampa Police Department. The holidays usually bring on this kind of behavior, detectives say. Plus, with the pandemic, the elderly are often alone and even more vulnerable.

The bad guys also know if they want this to work it’s on the details they get online, researching family facts to make it sound legit. But sometimes, their fact-checking skills fail in an epic, karmic way.

Criminals went after an 80-year-old retiree in Jacksonville who spent 32 years on America’s highways and interstates as a truck driver. When he retired from trucking, he took a job as a school bus driver, a career he loved later in life.

When he was targeted, crooks thought they were pulling off the perfect crime. But it turns out they messed with the wrong grandparent as this proud retiree’s grandson is Tampa Police Officer Jaron Howell.

Corporal Howell says this familiar crime happened recently to a familiar face in his life, his own grandfather he was livid when he heard crooks try to convince his hero to send them $5,000.

“They’re lowlifes, that’s the best way to put it. They’re true lowlifes,” Corporal Howell said.

The call happened just before Thanksgiving when the officer’s grandfather got a strange call with a voice on the other end bearing bad news, telling him his grandson was behind bars in Georgia.

“He hit a pregnant woman,” the voice told him. “He’s in jail and unless you send the money, he’s not going to get out,” Corporal Howell said.

For a split second, this grandfather was worried. But, he knew it would be pretty difficult for his grandson to commit a crime in Georgia while fighting crime in Tampa and one call confirmed just that.

“In hindsight, it’s funny they chose the grandfather of a police officer,” Corporal Howell said.

At this point, the crooks have not been caught, and although detectives continue to track the case they want all grandparents to be aware this holiday season.

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