No bail for Kansas man accused of bilking senior of life savings

By Jazmine Ulloa
Globe Correspondent / August 22, 2009

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MEDFORD - A Kansas man accused of running an international telephone lottery scam was ordered held without bail yesterday after he allegedly conned an elderly Arlington woman of her life savings.

Darrell Kinney, 53, is accused of stealing more than $193,000 from Priscilla Saltmarsh, 84, in a scam that targeted seniors across the state, according to Arlington police. He was arraigned yesterday in Cambridge District Court on charges of felony larceny by scheme and larceny over $250.

Police said that Kinney - who lives in Kansas but is believed to be the leader of a crime network with operatives in Jamaica - first called Saltmarsh in February to tell her she had a won a $4.5 million prize in Jamaica. In order to claim her prize, police say, he told Saltmarsh she needed to first pay taxes on it.

For five months, Kinney repeatedly called Saltmarsh to tell her she needed to send more money to collect the prize.

Saltmarsh sent money to an address in Jamaica, and later to addresses in Kansas and Maryland, until all the money from her bank account was depleted, the report states. Saltmarsh then notified police.

Arlington police cracked the case by tracking telephone records and wire transfer funds, Arlington police Lieutenant Robert Bongiorno said. They contacted Kansas authorities, and earlier this week, detectives brought Kinney from his home in Iola, Kan., to Massachusetts.

“This was a very complex investigation and a very difficult case to prosecute because of jurisdictional issues,’’ Bongiorno said. “Arlington police went to some extraordinary measures.’’

Police believe Kinney stole up to $200,000 from Saltmarsh, although they were only able to link his scheme to part of that money, Bongiorno said. Other elderly residents statewide were lured by the scam artists through similar promises of a jackpot, sometimes up to a $1 million, Bongiorno said.

“Make no mistake about it, this guy’s targeted vulnerable elderly people,’’ he said. “As a law enforcement officer, it tugs at your heart strings.’’

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan and other area police chiefs had issued a public advisory that warned residents of the lottery scam in November and have continued to investigate the matter since then, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.

Now Arlington police are focused on finding other victims in the Commonwealth and tracking the whereabouts of their funds, Bongiorno said. They are also aiming to educate seniors on protecting themselves from con artists.

“Be vigilant; protect your identity,’’ Bongiorno advised.