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Wrong number leads to fraud charges for Wisconsin man

Often when we think of white collar crimes, we imagine elaborate schemes that are months or even years in the making. But sometimes charges arise out of crimes of opportunity, and the person accused may not have given much thought to his or her actions or their consequences.

A man accused of pulling an impromptu scam on a woman who accidentally dialed his phone number has been charged with fraud. At the end of last month the 82-year-old woman from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, intended to call a plumber she had used before, but forgot to add the toll-free prefix for the number and called a 22-year-old Milwaukee man instead.

According to a criminal complaint, the man told the caller the plumbing company was under new management and that he would come to her house to look at the problem. He took down her address, went to her home and looked at her plumbing before telling her that the repair would cost $260, along with a service fee of $35 to start, the complaint said. The woman said she wanted to pay all at once and wrote him a check. He then left in his car.

After the man failed to return after several hours, the woman's daughter became concerned and called his number, telling him to come and fix the problem or she would call police. She also tried to stop payment on the check, but it had already been cashed.

After police finally caught up with the man April 6, he admitted to going to the woman's house and accepting the check from her, reasoning that he didn't consider his actions "stealing" because she wrote the check to him voluntarily, according to the complaint. Furthermore, he said, he had made plans for the money and didn't want to return it after the woman's daughter threatened to call the police, the complaint said.

The opportunity the man saw to make some fast, easy money seems to have quickly transformed into a criminal problem for him. Although he hasn't been convicted, he's likely to regret his actions for quite some time if the allegations prove to be true.

Source: Wauwatosa Patch, "Man Faces Fraud Charges for Duping Tosa Woman Who Dialed a Wrong Number," Joe Petrie, April 14, 2012

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