MOUNT PLEASANT — A man who allegedly bilked a Mount Pleasant woman out of thousands of dollars may have been running a scam preying on widows for decades.
On Friday alone — the day Francis J. Riordon, 72, of Lake Geneva, was arrested — he allegedly attempted to contact 29 different elderly women, according to his criminal complaint.
The investigation revealed that Riordon, also known as 78-year-old Fred J. Reynolds, would research local obituaries, then contact the surviving spouse by phone and represent himself as a bank examiner, police said.
On Aug. 10, Mount Pleasant Police met with an 89-year-old woman who stated she had recently been scammed by someone alleging to be a bank examiner.
She reportedly received a call from someone named “Mr. Bradley” who told her there was a problem with her checking account and that she needed to void a check for $4,500, withdraw the cash and turn the cash over to him so he could investigate the problem. Later she reportedly met him at a Piggly Wiggly and gave him the money.
After she notified police, a GPS trace led police to Riordon’s house in Lake Geneva, where he was arrested Friday.
Searches of his home, laptop and phone records showed that since May he had researched hundreds of obituaries online and then searched for the corresponding widows to contact, according to his criminal complaint.
He reportedly had fraudulent credentials, badges, and more than 1,200 note cards containing names and phone numbers of potential and possible victims of this scam.
Information obtained from the note cards revealed his involvement in a scam possibly dating back decades, spanning more than 52 area codes and 12 states, according to police.
He was charged Monday in Racine County Circuit Court with theft — false representation of special facts and falsely acting as a public official, both of which are felonies.
A $7,500 cash bond was set for him. His preliminary hearing is Sept. 3.
Lt. Scott Geyer of the Mount Pleasant Police Department said Riordon was arrested for scam-related crimes in the past outside Wisconsin, but he did not believe Riordon was ever convicted.
“We are trying to backtrack and see what we can connect,” Geyer said.
He said the investigation is ongoing, but no additional victims had yet come forward as of Monday afternoon.
Police have issued the following warnings:
• Do not discuss finances or release any personal information to strangers either in person, by phone or electronic media.
• Do not withdraw money under any circumstances at the request or advice of strangers.
• Under no circumstances will bank officials, police or FBI request that you withdraw funds.
• Immediately contact the bank’s security department if anyone has contacted you claiming to be a bank examiner.
• If you receive a suspicious call from anyone wanting you to provide personal information, account information or withdraw funds, contact your local law enforcement agency. The police non-emergency number is 262-886-2300.