Friday, October 12, 2007

Woman Accused of Scamming $3 Million from Couple

A Frierson woman has been booked on a charge of felony theft for stealing $3 million from an elderly couple over the past four years — money the woman says financed a $1 million gambling habit, according to investigators.

Trimeka Johnson, 25, was arrested Monday and booked into Caddo Correctional Center. She remained there Tuesday on a $3 million bond.

Johnson is accused of swindling funds — as much as $90,000 at one time — from a 78-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman, according the Caddo sheriff's office.

Johnson's brother Danzera Johnson, 27, also is charged in the case. He is accused of picking up money from the victims and delivering it to his sister.

The case is being reviewed by the U.S. attorney's office for possible federal charges. Additional arrests may be forthcoming.

Trimeka Johnson became the subject of an investigation after Sheriff Steve Prator received a call from a concerned citizen about the couple's plight. The pair began giving money to Johnson in 2003, initially as a personal loan, then for what they believed were financial investments.

The man gave money to Johnson on a weekly basis for investments that never existed, according to authorities. It began with $4,000 to $8,000 a week but increased to $15,000 to $20,000.

"They trusted her and continued to give money, not knowing what was going on," sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick said. "They never asked enough questions."

Johnson apparently saw how easy it was to get money from the couple and came up with an investment scheme, Prator said.

"The caller suggested that an elderly couple may have been bilked out of a considerable amount of money. They didn't know (Johnson,) but they were beginning to piece it together," the sheriff said.

"That person believed something was wrong because these people had a lot of money and now they don't have any. My people worked the case until they finally got to the bottom of it."

The man first met Johnson at a nursing home where Johnson was caring for a friend of the couple.

The cash withdrawals were made from several local banks where the couple had accounts.

Johnson admitted gambling away more than $1 million at local casinos, which she visited on almost a daily basis. During that time, she won a Jaguar, which she later sold, and bought a house, which was later foreclosed on for failure to pay her house note or taxes.

"The sad part about it is they've lost everything and so has she," Chadwick said. "Usually in a case like this, the victims receive restitution. But she doesn't have anything to give them back."

Said Prator: "I just wish that these people will wake up and realize that there are hundreds of people out there waiting to take what you have worked for.
"You can still be compassionate and smart. And if there is any question about loans or anything, just let us help you," he said. "We are not going to tell you who to give your money to; we're here to protect you."

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