Mother, Daughter And Dog Fraud Team Latest To Hit Coronado - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Mother, Daughter And Dog Fraud Team Latest To Hit Coronado

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Posted: Monday, August 27, 2018 9:17 am

It appears Coronado has become a prime target for the perpetration of fraud. A couple of weeks back, Coronado Eagle & Journal colleague Alessandra Harrigan wrote about a phone scam where grandparents are contacted to pay a large sum of money immediately for a dire, but fake emergency related to their grandchildren. About a week later, the Coronado Chamber of Commerce sent out a warning about a sports marketing firm, which was promising donations to the Coronado High School Athletic Department and selling advertising to local merchants. This scam has been around for years, with no donations ever made to the Islander Athletic Department or the individual teams used in the solicitation.

But a new and elevated level of scam artist hit Coronado around Christmas 2017, featuring a 78-year-old Mother, her 50-year-old daughter and their adorable Bernese Mountain Dog as the pièce de résistance. According to a Memorandum of Decision from the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern Division of Massachusetts, the human portion of the group go by the names of Maxyne Alexander and Karen Alexander.

By the time they reached Coronado last year Maxyne had morphed into Max Belastock, which if you are a fan of the works of Mel Brooks, you’ll notice the riff on the last name of one of his lead characters in the movie and stage play “The Producers.” Karen was still going by Karen Alexander.

The manager of one of the larger hotels in the city told the Coronado Eagle & Journal of their interaction with the pair, and why they were staying in the hotel, “They said they bought a house in the Cays for $23 million and the house caught fire. Everything was a story. One time they said they were flying to the Super Bowl but gave their tickets away and decided not to go. In the early going, they had real estate agents from different parts of the country paying for their rooms here. Another time I went to see the Alexanders about their bill and they had gone to see a house in Rancho Santa Fe they were going to purchase. While Karen was here, she was buying houses. They said they owned this big rental property in Oregon. When they first came in, they had a credit card authorization which had specific dates to cover their stay. The lady who signed that, updated the authorization and sent it to us. When that time frame ran out, I said we need money or a second authorization. Both times an out-of-state real estate lady covered them. They ran up charges of around $4,000, maybe a little less, and they went on a trip and came back. Finally, I told them they had to leave by tomorrow morning and I wouldn’t let them back in the room. At checkout time, which is 11 a.m., they would go around to one of the other managers and ask to extend their checkout time, which would come and go. Finally, we got into it in my office and I thought we were going to throw blows. We were all more concerned about the dog. When they got arrested, we were worried what would happen to the dog.”

The Mother-Daughter pair had their separate responsibilities according to our source. “Karen was the leader as far as chit-chatting away and being the friendly one. Maxyne was the initial one with the money and she seemed to have the credit card information. Karen’s signature is nowhere to be found on the property.”

As for advice going forward, “The innkeeper’s rule is ‘Everyday must be paid’ and that is generally how it works. I got taken advantage of and didn’t pay full attention. We are so hospitable, and we will not let our friendliness be taken advantage of in the future.”

An element to keep in mind is to not get fixated on the names employed by the Alexanders thus far in the story. Karen has also gone by Karen Buchanan, Harley Buchanan, Harley Alexander, Karen S. Alexander and Karen L. Alexander. Maxyne usually uses an alias with some form of ‘Max’ in the name. They have run their scams in Massachusetts, Florida, Washington state, Oregon and now California. 

Another person who came out on the financial short end of their relationship with the Alexanders was local realtor Cathy Brown, who lost $2,200 dollars in rent to the pair. As part of a public service to the community and to provide a real-life example of how fraud works, Brown was forthright about her experiences. Her story also shows the Alexanders are capable of running a long con over a series of weeks.

When asked to relate the circumstances of their meeting, Brown said, “They were walking by with their tri-color dog and my Mom was sitting outside. She is a reader, a non-social human being and a snowbird who was here to get out of the cold in Massachusetts. Karen Alexander engaged my mother, who has a distinct Boston accent and that was the first hook. About a week into it, Karen said, ‘Do you know of any available apartments here?’ My mother told them to see me and they wanted to rent a place for a month. They said they were in the process of buying a house with a local realtor I know and that was the second hook. They said they were in escrow on a house in the Cays. I never collected the rent and for three weeks, everything was hunky-dory.”

During the third week, Brown was on vacation in Cape Cod and things started to fall apart. “They asked my business partner for $12,000. I went away, and they talked to my partner, who immediately called me. He said to Karen, ‘If you need some cash, I can give you a couple of hundred dollars.’ So, he took Karen to Wells Fargo and gave her $600. My business partner was later contacted by a representative from Wells Fargo who said, ‘We strongly recommend you know the people you are giving money to, really, really well.’ Which is about all they can legally say.”

Brown said, “The Alexanders are very good, but I decided it was time for them to go. I called a real estate agent in Washington state they had mentioned for some background information. The agent said they wanted to spend $3 million on a resort with a restaurant, hotel rooms and cabins on one of the islands there. He also said, ‘Karen had been here a week and I introduced her to a contractor who would fix up the property. Everything was moving along swimmingly until it came time to put the money into escrow and the funds never came. She was using Harley Alexander, one of her aliases. The next day Karen called and said, ‘I just lost my wallet. Can I borrow $5,000?’ I said no, however the poor contractor she met gave her the $5,000.”

Another fake payment dodge was the use of credit cards or debit cards to cover rent or other expenses. The Alexanders had credit cards from Wells Fargo and Pacific Western Bank, both of which weren’t valid.

The upshot of all of this is the Alexanders were arrested in San Diego on the charge of defrauding an innkeeper, which is a felony, and a second warrant for the money owed Brown. The pair took a plea deal and spent 11 days in jail. They can have their felony reduced to a misdemeanor if they pay the money back by mid-September. The case was a criminal proceeding heard in the South Bay Court.

Coronado Police Detective Amy Beebe said, “The type of fraud they were using was trustee fraud where they use people’s trust to get funded. One thing to remember, is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They ask for money up front and scams in general promise a payout and that the money is coming. The website lists common scams and frauds. If you think you are a victim of fraud or a scam, call us or report it to the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint through them. What we see are people who are schmoozers or have a lot of charisma and they convince people to give them money and prey on people’s good hearts. And you can always Google people you are in doubt about. There is a lot of information in the Internet, maybe an old article or police report from another state.”

The bottom line seems to be to approach large requests for money, or someone asking for a major favor, with a healthy skepticism. Collectively, Coronado seems to have a large target on our back.

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  • Tennessee Treehouse posted at 10:34 am on Mon, Aug 19, 2019.

    Tennessee Treehouse Posts: 1

    I am sad to admit this but she scammed me out of $10,800.

  • Suzie85 posted at 7:57 pm on Sat, Aug 17, 2019.

    Suzie85 Posts: 1

    I was scammed by her as well. Who do I contact about this.