Details are emerging in the arrest of a Redwood City man who allegedly conned several elderly San Mateo County residents out of tens of thousands of dollars.
According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, James Keeton, 62, claimed "tales of woe" such as a wife's miscarriage or his home going into foreclosure to borrow money from locals he "befriended," and would then cut off all contact with them once they had given him the loans.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that Keeton appeared in court Monday to face 13 felony counts of theft by false pretenses and elder abuse. He will appear in court again on March 27 to be appointed a private defender, Wagstaffe said. He is currently being held in custody on $750,000 bail.
Redwood City police arrested Keeton in his Redwood City home in the 2200 block of Roosevelt Avenue on Monday at 9 a.m., following a three-year investigation into fraud claims.
Keeton stands accused of befriending his victims, ages 51 to 88 years old, through local religious and social clubs, including the San Mateo County Horseman's Association and St. Pius Catholic Church in Redwood City.
Keeton would allegedly gain the trust of his victim and ask them for loans in amounts of $3,000 up to nearly $24,000, according to the DA's Office.
Court documents say Keeton allegedly used a number of excuses as to why he needed the money, including the alleged foreclosure or miscarriage, and promised to pay back the loan once money from an "East Coast inheritance" was paid out.
Officials claim that Keeton failed to pay back the loans, which have a combined amount of $73,650, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Redwood City Police Lt. Sean Hart said his office has been in contact with as many as seven victims and detectives are searching for more people who might have been victimized.
"We continue to work on the case and are actively interviewing people who had interactions with Keeton," Hart said Wednesday.
When the case was first brought to police attention, Hart said his department had to determine whether it was a criminal or civil case.
"It almost appeared civil until we found a pattern of this happening," Hart said.
He said Keeton's approach to borrowing the money was not always the same but the trail of unpaid loans and "IOU's" had an uncanny resemblance.
"There were a few different approaches - he would befriend the elderly victims, get the loans, and make no effort to repay the loan and would then cut off communication," Hart said.
Keeton was brought into custody through a coordinated investigation between the Redwood City and Burlingame police departments, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
"I think it's very important and a very big accomplishment that we got him off the street," Hart said of the arrest. "This guy was targeting elderly people and preying upon them."
Anyone with information regarding this case or other potential victims is asked to contact RCPD Detective Josh Chilton at 650-780-7141.
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