MENIFEE: Officials investigating recent rash of parking lot scams, demands for “payment”
MENIFEE — Following a rash of recent complaints about groups of men and women going through Menifee performing unsolicited home and vehicle repairs and threatening victims with demands for payment for the unsolicited repairs, officials are warning area residents to be wary of such scams and have reminded citizens that when confronted with a suspected scam they should immediately report the incident to law enforcement officials.
One such reported incident that has gained attention throughout southern Riverside County in the last two days involved a teenage boy who was reportedly threatened by two men who reportedly fixed a small dent in a truck the boy had driven to Living Spaces off Newport and Antelope Roads in Menifee.
Similar incidents have been reported throughout Menifee and surrounding cities in recent months.
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The victim’s mother, who requested neither she or her son be identified out of fear of retaliation, shared her son “Nicholas'” harrowing ordeal, that happened Tuesday night, May 15.
According to the mother’s Facebook post, her son Nicholas was returning to his truck in Menifee Town Center’s parking lot when he noticed a man “pounding out a dent on his truck.”
When the teen asked the man what he was doing, the alleged suspect reportedly told the boy he had just repaired a dent in his door and demanded to be paid for his “time and effort.”
“My son told him, ‘I never asked you to touch my truck,'” and tried to get into the vehicle to leave the parking lot.
“The man started getting mad and aggressive,” the concerned and angry mother explained. “The guy kept demanding money and would not leave my son alone.”
At that point Nicholas reportedly noticed “a dark Suburban” pull up beside him and noticed “two bigger men inside,” said the mom.
Other victims of the alleged scam have reported a similar SUV as well as a newer, red or burgundy Chevy SUV, and one victim even managed to snap a photo of the suspect’s SUV as it left the area after she felt forced to pay for a different unsolicited “dent repair.”
Fearing for his safety, the boy gave the three men all the money he had on him – a $20 bill. The alleged suspect was not satisfied and demanded even more money – ultimately ordering the terrified teen to drive to a nearby ATM to pull out additional cash for the “completed repairs” to his truck.
The three men then reportedly followed Nicholas to the ATM, staying close behind the boy’s truck “the whole way.”
“He did what they said because he wasn’t sure if they had a gun and he didn’t want the men to follow him home,” said the mother; continuing, “He didn’t know what he could do or what his options were, so he did what the men told him to do.”
It was not immediately known if Nicholas had a phone with him when the incident happened, but after visiting the ATM and giving the men an undisclosed amount of cash, the boy told his mother about the scary confrontation as soon as he returned home.
After hearing of her son’s ordeal, the mother immediately called Menifee PD and reported the incident.
Although a Menifee PD deputy responded and later told the teen he did the right thing by giving the men what they wanted, the lawman reportedly told the boy and his mother there wasn’t much the department could do, because “it never escalated to violence and Nicholas followed the man’s demands,” the frustrated mother explained.
However, when RCNS contacted the Sheriff’s Department the morning after the confrontation for information about the alleged incident, Investigator Armando Muñoz of the Sheriff’s Media Information Bureau advised that because the incident could be related to other, similar area incidents, Menifee PD’s Special Enforcement Team had assumed the investigation, which is actively continuing and ongoing.
California Penal Code §211 reads: “Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”
In a May 18 press release Deputy Mark Buelna reminded all area residents that “scams come in a variety of forms … one of which is people who perform unsolicited work on your vehicle or residence and then demand payment.”
“The Menifee Police Department has seen a rise in people going through neighborhoods and shopping centers performing work such as painting your address on the curb in front of your house or removing dents from a vehicle then demanding payment,” Buelna continued.
“As a reminder, residents do not have to pay for services not requested,” Buelna explained. “If payment is demanded for such services and you feel threatened, call the police and be prepared to provide a description of the subject, their vehicle, and their license plate number.”
Despite the official reassurance, the victim’s mother says she is still concerned and her family no longer feels safe.
“We need to keep our kids and our community safe,” the concerned mother said, warning others, “Please pass this along and keep an extra eye open when in shopping centers.”
Anyone requesting additional information is encouraged to call Officer M. Buelna at the Menifee Police Department at (951) 210-1124 or by email. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.
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Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.