Men pretending to be good Samaritans target elderly man with ‘Wobbly Wheel’ scam, wipe victim out of $1,000
HOUSTON — The holiday season is also open season for thieves who prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
Authorities are searching for two thieves who recently posed as good Samaritans as they worked the so-called Wobbly Wheel Scam at a gas station on Westheimer.
Paul Yonko, 34, and Nick Stanley, 27, are charged with aggravated robbery of a person 65 years of age or older.
The first-degree felony carries a penalty of five years to life in prison.
A 75-year-old man pulled into the station just after dark.
Yonko was standing in the parking lot and warned the driver that his wheel looked like it was about to fall off.
Yonko said he was a mechanic; that he had some tools and would help him out.
He said that he and Stanley would give him a hand in a nearby parking lot, which was away from the public, by fixing the tire for free, aside from the cost of parts.
After they acted like they performed some needed repairs they then informed the elderly man that he owed them $400 for parts.
At that point, there was nobody around to seek help from, and Yonko and Stanley escorted the man to an ATM machine and grew increasingly aggressive.
They forced him to make three withdrawals for a total of $1,000, and they left.
Yonko and Stanley, well-known to law enforcement, were identified by video and photos taken by surveillance systems at the bank and gas station.
“This time of year there are a lot of scams going on where people will approach an elderly person in a parking lot or a gas station and pretend to be kind, but steal their money,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
“Don’t fall for it,” Ogg said. “If you are approached, if you feel uncomfortable, go inside the store where there are other people around and ask for help.”
A reward of up to $5,000 is now being offered for information leading to the arrest of either Yonko or Stanley.
“In this case, only money was taken but one can imagine far more tragic scenarios starting this way,” Ogg said. “Be alert and be safe.”
If you have information, contact Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.