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Scammers preying on elders may be trusted advisers

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Scammers preying on elders may be trusted advisers

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By Thomas Goldsmith

Sometimes crime does pay.

But crime can also catch up to a person, even a North Carolina man who had managed to scam mostly older people out of at least $3.3 million. 

His victims were a group that included his own dad, according to state and federal officials.

These days Joseph Mutter, 52, does his time at Piedmont Central Prison near Salisbury. It’s part of a sentence of at least 16 years handed him by a Forsyth County superior court judge last month following Mutter’s guilty plea to scamming a dozen victims. Prosecutors had charged Mutter with crimes including transferring more than $900,000 from investment accounts of retirees who were 66, 69 and 78.

Through financial good times and bad, cold-blooded defrauders have tracked down and set their hooks in older North Carolinians, many of whom have built savings for retirement after decades of successful careers. Those crimes can range from tricking people on state assistance programs to scamming others with substantial retirement accounts.

A friendly or even familial relationship, old or new, can mean little if it’s kept with a person bent on thievery, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said during a recent phone interview.

“Don’t put too much trust in the people even though they’re as nice as everything to you,” Marshall said. “Playing upon people’s trust — seniors’ trust or anybody’s trust — is how these things generally take…

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