A Canadian citizen accused of swindling elderly Minnesotans by calling them, posing as their grandson and asking them to wire him money, has pleaded guilty in Dakota County District Court.
Robert Attias, 35, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of theft by swindle in connection with the phone scams, which took place in January and February 2010.
Attias, whose last known address was in Miami, was accused in 2011 of stealing $15,525 from senior citizens in Hastings, Glencoe, St. Paul, Olmsted County and Steele County.
According to a criminal complaint filed in 2011, Attias would call elderly Minnesotans claiming to be their grandson in need of money for bail following an arrest. That call was sometimes followed by another in which he or another person he was working with would claim to be a lawyer and tell the senior citizens where to send the money.
In some cases, police said, Attias seed he needed money for rental car expenses, car repairs or to pay for the trip home.
Once the money had been wired to Florida in Attias’ name, he would pick it up, alternately using driver’s licenses and identification cards from Florida and Quebec. In his plea, Attias admitted sending the funds to a family member in Canada.
According to the charges, Attias or the person working with him called five Minnesota victims repeatedly.
One victim from Glencoe sent $6,359 to Attias and paid $560 in fees before realizing it was not her grandson calling.
County Attorney James Backstrom, in a news release, urged Minnesota residents to be aware of such scams and to never forward money, credit card numbers or other personal information to someone without verifying the identity of the person or the validity of the need to do so.
Judge Thomas Pugh has ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Jan. 10 in Hastings.