Scams hit home for two LaPlace residents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – The present state of the economy has forced most to take a closer look at their finances. Unfortunately, economic desperation has caused a proliferation of scam artists who have their eyes on the bank accounts of others.

Although scams have been commonplace in urban centers for quite a while, factors such as technology and an influx of wealthier citizens to suburban and rural areas have meant swindlers have also made inroads. The residents of St. John Parish have not been immune.

LaPlace resident Earline Hotard recently received a piece of mail that made her think it was her lucky day. The truth, however, was quite the opposite.

In her mail that day was a notification she had won a “consumer promotion drawing” open to customers at a number of major department and specialty stores in the U.S. and Canada. Her prize was to be $150,000, but of course there was a catch.

Enclosed in the envelope was a check in the amount of $3,800, which was to be used for the payment of taxes on the prize, taxes that had to be paid before the prize money could be awarded.

When Hotard took the check to the bank, however, she got some bad news – the check was a fake.

Hotard got lucky because she went to a bank associate and did not just deposit the check and then send a money transfer, as the letter instructed.

While this type of scam has been around for a while, another resident of LaPlace ran into trouble of a sort that has been exploding across the region of late.

Joann Robinson and her husband are building a house in Pontchatoula and hired a local contractor, who she described as a friend of the family.

While working on the house, the contractor drew from the money the Robinsons set aside for the project. He eventually withdrew $46,000 of the $52,000 according to Robinson.

Finally, the contractor told the Robinsons he was filing bankruptcy, losing his house and leaving his wife, and he would not be finishing the job.

Robinson said at least $20,000 in work remains to be done, and much of the work already completed is substandard.

These two unfortunate instances are just a sample of the many reasons people everywhere must be vigilant when it comes to one’s personal finances.