Vallejo man loses $10,000 in 'pigeon drop' scam

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- A bogus offer many people have received in their email played out in real life for a Vallejo man and the victim was left wondering how he fell for such an obvious scam.

Manny Rolando, 74, recalls walking to his car at a Vallejo strip mall. A man named Copey, who claimed to be from Sierra Leone, approached Rolando and asked for a ride to church.

Copey claimed he wanted to make a donation to the church and Rolando, who asked us not to show his face or use his real named, agreed.

"I thought I was being a Good Samaritan," Rolando said.

On the way to the church, Copey showed Rolando a bag full of money and explained he had received a large inheritance and needed help distributing it to charities.

Outside the church, they encountered a man named James. Copey made the same offer to both of them.

He would give them $90,000 each. They could each distribute $70,000 to charity and keep the remaining $20,000.

"He was saying he cannot bring back the money that he had with him because it would be confiscated or he will be killed by the military in Sierra Leone," Rolando recalled.

Both James and Rolando were asked to get a large sum of money to prove they trusted Copey.

James returned with $40,000 and gave it to Copey.

"He asked the man to stay out. We will bring the money around. If you trust us, you can leave your money with us," Rolando said.

Copey and Rolando walked around the block with the money before returning it to James. Manny agreed to do the same thing.

He drove to the bank and brought back an ATM receipt showing he had $23,000 but Copey insisted on cash.

Rolando returned to the bank to make a cash withdrawal.

He gave $10,000 to Copey and agreed to walk around the block while Copey and James waited. When he returned, both the money and the two men were gone.

"I was angry at myself because I believed him. I was angry at them," Rolando said. "My knees were shaking when I was trying to look for them."

This is the classic con known as the "pigeon drop."

Vallejo police say they've seen this before and the elderly are frequently the targets.

"The suspect offers a larger sum of money to the victim in exchange for a smaller sum of money," Vallejo Police Department's Lt. Kenny Park said.

Police suspect Copey and James were working together to scam Rolando, and he realizes he'll likely never see that money again.

"It was not supposed to be happening to me. I'm supposed to be an intelligent person, an educated person,' Rolando said.

Police hopes that there might be a surveillance video. The suspects have, so far, not been found.
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