BARNEGAT, NJ – A Florida man has a jail cell waiting for him after scamming an Ocean County man out of $10,000 in a phony cash bail phone scam. Now, he’s being sought by police in New Jersey and is a wanted criminal fugitive.
Barnegat Township Police Chief Keith A. Germain announced that on February 12, 2021, Juan C. Piedrahita, 49, of Hollywood, Florida, was charged with Theft by Deception in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4.
“The charges are the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Barnegat Township Police Department Detective Bureau in January 2021,” the department said. “The investigation revealed that Piedrahita, posing as an attorney, telephonically contacted an elderly victim advising him that his nephew had been in a motor vehicle accident. Piedrahita convinced the victim that his nephew was under arrest and that $10,000 cash bail was needed to secure his release.”
The victim obtained the cash and met Piedrahita – now posing as a courier – at a CVS parking lot in Barnegat.
After leaving the parking lot, the elderly victim was contacted once again and instructed to provide an additional $10,000 as payment to the alleged victim of the purported motor vehicle accident. It was only when the victim was questioned by bank staff that he contacted his nephew and confirmed that his nephew was not in a motor vehicle accident nor was he under arrest. Detectives were able to obtain surveillance footage of the area surrounding the CVS parking lot, which captured the rental vehicle Piedrahita had rented at Newark International Airport, and were thereafter able to confirm Piedrahita’s identity based on that footage.
Juan C. Piedrahita’s location is presently unknown, and a Warrant for his arrest has been issued. Anyone in possession of information concerning Piedrahita’s whereabouts is urged to contact Detective James Purcell of the Barnegat Township Police Department at 609-698-5000, extension 262.
“I urge our residents to speak with family members before withdrawing large sums of money based on a phone call or an email. These scams are far too prevalent in this day and age. If you receive one of these calls or emails, contact your family or your local police department. Be aware that these scams target seniors, please help to prevent our senior population from falling victim to predators seeking to cheat and extort them,” the Ocean County Prosecutor said.