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Elderly woman makes phone call, avoids being victim of confidence game


An elderly Bel Air woman was the intended victim last week of a confidence man who called to congratulate her on winning $50,000 in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. All she had to do, the smooth-tongued caller said casually, was pre-pay $2,500 in taxes.

The 71-year-old woman didn't take the bait.

Instead, she called Publishers Clearing House in Port Washington, N.Y., and was told the call she had received was not legitimate.

"Winning is always free," Christopher Irving, manager of the consumer affairs division of Publishers Clearing House, said.

Consumers do not have to buy or pay anything to win, Mr. Irving said.

He said everyone should beware of giving out a credit card number or a checking account number.

"And, if a caller uses high-pressure tactics, trying to get you to act immediately, be extra wary," he said.

Mr. Irving said Congress estimated in 1991 that phony telemarketing schemes were costing unwary victims about $40 billion every year.

He said Publishers Clearing House regularly receives complaints from across the country. He said recent complaints from victims or intended victims in Maryland were not unusually high.

Mr. Irving said anyone may call Publishers Clearing House at (800)-645-9242, if they want to report a complaint or ask a question.

"We take all complaints very seriously," he said. "We write down all the information and pass it on to local law enforcement officials," he said.

In other recent law enforcement activities:

* Detectives for the Harford County Sheriff's Office have interviewed a 41-year-old Bel Air man who recently went on vacation to Alabama, leaving his elderly mother and aunt at home in the care of part-time home health care providers.

They will write a report based on their interview with Mr. Chancey and send it to the state's attorney office, which will determine whether criminal charges should be filed, Sergeant Hopkins said Friday.

Both women have dementia, said Dr. Charles Eck, an internist from Aberdeen.

"Both women were dehydrated and had borderline-to-mild malnutrition," he said last week after the women were removed from the home of Hubert Wayne Chancey of the 1300 block of Allenby Court in Amyclae Estates.

The women, who are sisters, were identified as Juanita Chancey, 70, who is bedridden, and Gladys Maureen Weeks, 88, said Sergeant Hopkins. Mr. Chancey, son of the 70-year-old and the nephew of the older woman, was cooperative with detectives, Sergeant Hopkins said.

Attempts to contact Mr. Chancey were unsuccessful.

When the sisters were removed from the house Aug. 28 by authority of the county's Department of Social Services, they were taken to Harford Memorial Hospital. They are in good condition there, a hospital spokeswoman said Friday.

* A 24-year-old Northwest Baltimore woman was arrested Thursday on drug charges after two members of the county Sheriff's Office Drug Interdiction Team saw her driving in Edgewood with no front license plate on her car.

The deputies made the traffic stop about 6 p.m. at Harbinger Trail and Edgewater Drive. They said the woman, Trevette S. Mitchell of the 2500 block of Edgecomb Circle in the city's Park Heights neighborhood, appeared nervous, even after she was given the traffic violation.

Becoming suspicious, they asked if they could search her car, the deputies said.

After receiving her permission, they found 225 grams of cocaine hidden in the car's trunk along with a digital scale, they said.

Ms. Mitchell was taken into custody on charges of possession of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and related charges. She was being held at the Harford County Detention Center in lieu of $15,000 bond, authorities said.

The seized cocaine is worth an estimated $12,000, the deputies said.

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