A mom goes missing; a daughter comes to the rescue

While much attention has been paid lately to the role of cryptocurrency in fraud, gift cards are still the tool of choice for many Internet criminals. In fact, the BBB says gift card fraud reports tripled between 2017 and 2020. And about one in four fraud victims who had money stolen from them send it to the criminal via gift card, according to the FTC. In fact, gift cards have topped the list of fraud payment tools for several years.

Behind every report is a person, and a family, suddenly facing financial loss and emotional trauma. Some stories are harder to hear than others, but I think they need to be told. So today I bring you Judy and Heather Newsome, a mother-daughter team that in the end show their deep and abiding love for each other – but not before a criminal makes off with almost all the money Judy’s mom left her after she died.

Judy and Heather live in small-town Ohio, a place called Warren, famous as the birthplace of drummer Dave Grohl. Judy had a tough year. She lost her mom, and she lost her long-term waitress job due to Covid. Heather, a recent college graduate, still works at a grocery store as she’s trying to get her media business off the ground…and that’s where she was the day she learned her mom had gone missing, sped away from her husband while leaving a local bank.

Why? Hopefully you’ll listen to the podcast to hear the rest of the story by clicking here. A partial transcript is below the play button. 

————————-Partial Transcript————————————-

[00:06:45] Bob: So Dad comes homes hoping Judy will make her way home too. But about the time Heather gets back from work, he’s in full panic mode. Heather starts taking over the search. They retrace Mom’s steps.

[00:06:59] Heather Newsome: He’s asking me, like, “Have you seen your mother? Did your mother talk to you?” I’m like, “No.” I’m like, “She hasn’t said anything to me all day. I’ve been at work.” And he was like, “Well, she got this weird phone call, and she won’t let me know what’s going on, and I’m really concerned, I’m scared.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, you know, let’s not rush to conclusions.” I’m like, “Where’s the last time that you saw her?” And that’s when he told me the bank. So I’m like, “Okay. Well the bank’s going to have some information if she was there. She probably did a transaction.” So I called the bank, and of course, the bank won’t give me any information, ’cause I’m just their daughter. So I just put this lady on speaker phone at the bank, and that’s when she tells my dad that my mother was there in the morning, probably around let’s say 10:30 or 11 o’clock, and she withdrawed 10 grand from her savings.

[00:07:44] Bob: 10 grand. Wow.

[00:07:45] Heather Newsome: Yep, my parents’ savings. So immediately that’s a really huge red line, because again, if you know my mom, she’s the kind of person that complains about like taking out $100 to go, you know, do something for the house. So 10 grand is a lot for her to uh, just you know take out, especially with my dad not knowing. So I’m like, oh my gosh, what, what did she get herself into?

[00:08:11] Bob: It could have been anything. Heather knows her mom was in a bad frame of mind and she’s scared.

[00:08:17] Heather Newsome: I’m like, what did my brother get himself into. You know, these are things that are going through my mind. I’m like, something must have happened in the family where this money needs to be desperately reached. Does she owe someone money? Did she, you know, because the pandemic and she lost her job, I’m like, do we owe someone money? You know like there’s these all these scenarios going through my head.

[00:08:37] Bob: Her mind racing, Heather decides to go to the police and try to file a missing person’s report. But rather than make her feel better, that makes her feel even worse.

[00:08:49] Heather Newsome: They pretty much were telling me my mother left me and my father and my brothers. Um, she took the money and ran off. That there was like maybe another man involved, um, like she had a separate second life is what they were telling me. And they were saying like because she’s not picking up her phone for me or my brothers or my dad, and she hasn’t been seen in this long and all this money is gone, she doesn’t want to be found is what they were telling me. And I’m like, okay.

[00:09:21] Bob: That’s creep out.

[00:09:22] Heather Newsome: I know, I was really upset about this ’cause I’m like you have no idea what you’re talking about, or who you’re talking about, ’cause my mom, like you know, I understand like marriages can get tough sometimes, but like her kids, her kids are her life. You know, she would never ever leave us.

[00:09:45] Bob: So she heads back home and now the rest of the family sweeps into action. Heather starts to enlist anyone she can in the search.

[00:09:54] Heather Newsome: We’re all crying, we’re all freaking out. My brother takes on hotels, my oldest brother stays at the house in case she comes home, and me and my sister-in-law, we go around stores, grocery stores, department stores, um, gas stations. My brother, and when he’s searching hotels, he thinks that my mom’s kind of slipped, like losing a mother, the pandemic, and the job, but we just couldn’t figure out what they money was taken out if that was the case. So he’s checking hotels. I’m checking in stores. My sister-in-law calls me because she goes to this gas station, meets this very popular guy at the gas station, and he has a lot of friends on Facebook. And he goes, like, you know, “Tell your sister-in-law to post a picture of her mother on her Facebook and asking if anybody’s seen her, and I’ll share it. And, you know if we get any leads, I’ll let you know.”

[00:10:50] Bob: A few minutes later, the first clue about what’s happening comes in from a grocery store.

[00:10:56] Heather Newsome: My sister-in-law, she happens to stop at the grocery store here in our area, and sure enough, the cashier has recognized my mom. So she gives me a call because they won’t give her any information because she’s not an actual family member. So I get there, and the kicker was I work for this grocery store. I work for a different one, but I work for one. So I come in full uniform, and I’m like, “Hi,” you know, “I heard that you guys have seen my mom. Um, can I please have some information on this, ’cause I haven’t seen her and neither has my dad, and there’s a lot of money gone and we’re getting worried.” So they print me out the transactions and everything, and sure enough, they tell me, yeah, your mom was here in the morning and she bought 5 grand in gift cards.

{snip}

[00:13:10] Judy Newsome: Yes. My husband was outside in the garage. Heather was at work. And um, he called, and I go, “Hello.” And he goes, “Is this Judy?” And I go, “Yes, it is.” And he goes, “Is your last name Newsome?” And I go, “Yes, it is.” And he gave me his name, and he said he was an agent. And he said, “Is your Social Security number…” and he gave me my Social Security number. And I said, yes, it was. And he, then he told me, he goes, “Well we found a car,” I forget what state it was, and he said, “We found a lot of drugs and a lot of money, and a lot of papers, documents with your husband and your name on it.” And he goes, “We’re an agent,” and he goes, “You will be arrested if you didn’t follow what I tell you to do.” And I go, “Oh yeah?” And I was scared, and I didn’t tell my husband. I don’t know why I didn’t. And he goes, “Is anybody there with you?” And I said, “No, not right now.” And he goes, “Good.” He goes, “Do you have a cellphone?” And I go, “Yes.” He goes, “Give me your cellphone number.” So I gave him the cellphone number. And he goes, “Now,” he goes, “I want you to go to your car,” and he goes, “I want you to ride around for about 10 minutes.” So I did. My husband when I was leaving came in to ask me what was I doing. I told him I had to leave. And he goes, “Where are you going?” And I wouldn’t tell him. And he goes, “Who was the call from?” And I said, “I, I can’t tell you. I said I’ll be back.” Well, he followed me. And he followed me to the bank. And he got out and I was in my car and I locked my doors and everything. I wouldn’t let him in, and he kept on yelling, you know, “What are you doing here? What are you doing here?” He goes, “What are you going to do?” And I said, “Nothing.” I said, “I just stopped here.” And, and he goes, “Well who’s the call you got from?” I said, “Everything will be okay.” I said, “I’ll explain it to you tonight.” He says, “I got some things to do.”

[00:15:18] Bob: So Judy takes off following the instructions of the agent on the phone. But her husband isn’t giving up that easily.

[00:15:25] Judy Newsome: So he left. Well he didn’t actually leave. I left and he followed me. And while he was following me, I was talking to the guy on the cellphone, and he goes, “What’s wrong?” I said, “My husband’s following me.” He goes, “Well try to lose him.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll try.” So I did lose him. Then I stopped, I don’t know where it was, somewhere and I told him I lost him, and he goes, “Good.” He goes, “Now,” he goes, “I want you to go to the bank and get $10,000 out.” And I wondered how in the world did he know that I had that kind of money in the bank in the first place. You know. And he, he said he knew it. And I, I mean he didn’t tell me, you know. And then he goes, “If you don’t want to go to jail,” he goes, he really got stressed with it, I mean really straight, he goes, “If you don’t want to go to jail,” he goes, “you’d better do this.” And I said, “Okay.”

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About Bob Sullivan 1536 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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