LAKEWOOD — She thought he was a trusted handyman. Instead, an 83-year-old Lakewood woman was swindled out of at least $90,000 through a series of schemes that began when she hired a home handyman she found in a church bulletin.
Jose Colon, 59, was indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury for theft and extortion in a case that highlights a growing threat of financial exploitation of the elderly. In this case, prosecutors say Colon repeatedly charged the victim for home repairs that were never done.
"The handyman she had in her home — wasn't so handy," recalled the victim's niece, who contacted Lakewood Detective David Kappa.
"He was big at using black spray paint to paint over things," says Kappa, "but nothing was ever fixed."
Kappa says Colon had a long criminal history that included several prison sentences.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brent Kirvel says Colon even faked a medical injury claiming his victim ran over his foot in the driveway, forcing her to pay for phony medical bills that included a trip to a pain clinic where Colon was not a patient.
"That alone tells you how predatory and conniving the guy is," says Kirvel, adding, "it was a well he kept coming back to."
It's a well that's also being tapped nationwide as financial exploitation of the elderly is exploding.
Just last year, a U.S. Department of Justice task force issued a report detailing how it busted 260 defendants impacting 2 million victims who lost at least three-quarters of a billion dollars.
Adult protective advocates are alarmed as well.
"You really see it taking off and it's undergirded by the by 10-thousand baby boomers a day turning 65," says Joseph Snyder with the National Adult Protection Services Association.
In the Colon case, the victim's niece says the best advice is "when you have someone come into your home--help a family member vet that person or do your own investigation."
Colon has pleaded guilty to theft and extortion charges and is scheduled to be sentenced August 25.