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A Los Angeles man is accused of staging phony car accidents in order to dupe at least 10 elderly drivers into paying him. Investigators believe there may be more victims.
David Stevens, 42, allegedly waved down senior drivers, accused them of hitting his car, and threatened to report them to the DMV if they didn't pay for his phony repairs, Los Angeles' KABC-TV reports. He was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, felony stalking, and burglary.
And because his alleged victims were all between 70 and 90 years old, Stevens faces an additional charge that he wouldn't have faced had he targeted younger drivers.
Elder Abuse Comes in Many Forms
For his alleged staged car-crash scheme targeting the elderly, David Stevens also faces a charge of elder abuse.
While elder abuse may evoke crimes like caregivers' abuse of nursing home and in-home care patients, it may surprise you to know that you don't need to be a caregiver to be convicted of elder abuse. For example, in California, a wide range of crimes can be considered "elder abuse," such as the infliction of physical or mental pain or suffering on an elderly victim.
In Stevens' case, he likely faces charges under a provision that punishes non-caregivers for stealing property from "an elder or dependent adult." To get a conviction, prosecutors will need to prove Stevens knew that at least one of his victims was an elder (i.e., 65 or older) or was dependent on someone else for care.
But from news reports, it's not quite clear why Stevens faces a burglary charge. In California, burglary occurs when a person enters another person's property without permission, with the intent to commit a crime on the premises.
However, LAPD detectives say Stevens followed some of his victims to ATMs and even to their homes in order to collect payment (one alleged victim, 87, forked over more than $30,000 after repeated harassment, Los Angeles' KCBS/KCAL-TV reports). So it's possible that if Stevens stepped foot inside a victim's home -- or even reached inside a victim's car -- with the intent of stealing from or defrauding the victim, he could potentially be convicted of burglary.
As Stevens' case shows, car accident fraud is a serious problem in Los Angeles County. It's so prevalent that the county received a $6.9 million grant to combat staged car crashes last year.
Detectives are asking anyone who may have fallen for the staged car-crash scheme to come forward. David Stevens is currently behind bars in lieu of $1.25 million bail.