Prosecutors seeking two men accused of bilking two Aptos women by posing as contractors
SANTA CRUZ, Jan 25, 2013 (Santa Cruz Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office has filed charges against two men suspected of scamming two elderly Aptos residents out of money by pretending to be contractors.
Warrants have been issued for Steve Costello and Sonny Costello on two charges each of felony financial elder abuse. Prosecutor William Atkinson said Friday he did not know if or how the two men are related.
In June, Steve Costello allegedly went to the Sunset Drive home of a 92-year-old woman and told her she needed her driveway resurfaced. The woman paid him $2,000 to perform the work, which was shoddily done and caused damage to the driveway, Atkinson said.
"There was no need for it," he said, explaining she'd had the job done just months before.
In October, Steve Costello returned to the same home and told the woman she owed more money for the driveway job. She paid out another $1,800.
In another incident on Jan. 10, Sonny Costello allegedly told a 94-year-old woman she needed the roof of her Cuesta Drive home resurfaced. She paid him $3,100 and he didn't do any work. When he demanded another $600, she grew suspicious and refused to pay. The women's children alerted authorities, Atkinson said.
He believes the two men cruised around the area looking for certain demographics to prey on, typically older people living alone.
"They're extremely vulnerable," he said. "They're very trusting. They can become easily confused and
that's exactly the type of target these predators are looking for."
Prosecutors have surveillance footage of the two Costellos cashing the victims' checks at banks soon after being paid. They also found a video posted online on YouTube in March 2008 with the title "Gypsy Girls How to Make Money," which depicts a man who appears to be Sonny Costello. Investigators believe that Costello used the video, which isn't in English, to explain how to pull off these types of home contracting scams. Sonny Costello is on probation for grand theft out of Sacramento County, Atkinson said.
"Homeowners should never, ever allow an unsolicited person to talk them into this kind of transaction," Atkinson said.
Atkinson asks anyone who believes they may have been victimized by the Costellos or has information about their whereabouts to contact their local police department. They also can contact the District Attorney's Consumer Affairs Division at 454-2050.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96
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