UNIONTOWN, Ohio - A woman, accused of scamming local churches and senior citizens in four counties, was arrested in Barberton on Thursday and charged with multiple felonies.
Police in Uniontown said Jennifer Riley, 31, concocted several elaborate tales and convinced people to give up their money so that she could support her heroin habit.
"I think it's terrible when you're stealing from the elderly. They have limited funds anyway, and they're prey to these types of schemes," said Uniontown Captain Dave Brown.
Uniontown investigators had released a B.O.L.O. (be on the lookout) for Riley to other law enforcement agencies and indicated she was wanted for defrauding the elderly and churches in Stark, Wayne and Summit Counties. Brown said she's also a suspect in Ashland County.
A Uniontown detective located Riley at a Barberton motel, along with a 29-year-old man, who is being called "a person of interest" in the crimes.
Ernest Yoder, 89, of Uniontown, said Riley showed up as his home last December with a sob story that her family was about to be evicted from their apartment. She used the alias "Anna."
Yoder gave her $160 and asked her to bring back just ten dollars in change. However, the next day, she allegedly returned to the home and stole his cell phone and wallet. The senior said $900 was racked up on his debit card.
Captain Brown said the suspect then bought gift cards and sold them for cash.
"She's a scam artist. She's out to take everybody she can," Yoder said.
On March 7, Riley allegedly showed up at Maranatha Bible Church in Springfield Township and told members she was sent by a pastor. Sergeant Eric East said she asked for money for a car repair. The church obliged, but Riley never made good on promise to pay the cash back, police said.
On February 22, a senior couple from Bath Township gave Riley $100 after meeting her at a gas station in Copley Township, according to a police report.
Chief Mike McNeely said the seniors were fooled into thinking that Riley was a relative.
Captain Brown estimated Riley has stolen $20,000 from victims in the four counties over a six-month period.
She appeared in Canton Municipal Court on Friday and a judge set bond at $50,000. She was ordered to have no contact with the victims.
Charges against her include burglary, theft, misuse of credit cards and forgery.