Scam artist bilked Lancaster County woman out of $159,000 life’s savings

LANCASTER, Pa  — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the arrest of a Washington County man charged with using an investment scheme to steal approximately $159,000 from a 69-year-old Lancaster County woman. The scam artist led the victim to believe she would face retaliation from the mafia if she did not continue giving him money. The victim lost her life’s savings to the scheme.

Yancey Taylor, 45, of Donora, used the money that he extorted from the victim and gambled it away at various casinos in Pennsylvania, Attorney General Shapiro said today at a news conference at the Lancaster County Courthouse, where he was joined by Senior Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

“This scam artist preyed on an elderly woman and stole her life savings,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “He came into her life, gained her trust, and then abused that trust to fuel his own greed and gambling habit. We will not tolerate those who scam our seniors. We’re here to protect them.”

Shapiro credited the work of a statewide investigative grand jury and prosecutor Dye, who handled the case in the grand jury that recommended charges against Taylor. The case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Taylor first met the victim, Karen Fedrow, a retired, lifelong educator from Lancaster, in 2012, when she rented a home to Taylor that she owned in Westmoreland County. Initially, Taylor helped Fedrow recover funds owed to her by a previous tenant, gaining her trust.

Eventually, Taylor told the retiree of an “investment” opportunity in which she would earn money and receive a guaranteed return. Fedrow began investing money with Taylor, who told her she had to keep investing more funds or her initial investment would be lost. She began giving Taylor money in larger installments, $3,000 one time, $4,000 another time. In June 2013, Fedrow withdrew $18,000 over a five-day period and gave it to Taylor.

Taylor told his victim her investments had accrued “fees” that were owed to someone known as “the Boss.” At other times, he told her the mafia was involved, and that both he and Fedrow had to answer to “the Boss.” Fedrow grew suspicious over time, and then became fearful when she received strange telephone calls from people who threatened her to keep giving Taylor more money.

Fedrow testified before the grand jury that the only person she ever met or paid money to was Taylor. Between February and August 2013, Fedrow gave Taylor approximately $159,000. She took out loans against her home and liquidated her life’s savings, including an IRA.

Taylor is charged with one count each of theft by deception and theft by extortion, second-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Following arraignment Taylor was released after posting $50,000 unsecured bail. He faces a preliminary hearing on the charges on June 9 before District Justice David P. Miller.

Attorney General Shapiro said investigators believe there may be additional victims who were scammed by Taylor, and he urged anyone with information to contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 717-787-6858.

The attorney general also delivered several tips from the office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for citizens, particularly the elderly, to avoid being scammed by criminals.

  • Do not provide money for investments right away. Research the investment and speak with friends, family, and financial advisors. Check if the salesperson is registered with FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). See what is in the financial statements by checking with the SEC.
  • Be especially careful with sales people who send you unsolicited information about investment opportunities through the mail, faxes, phone calls or email.
  • Don’t believe the limited time offer or once in a lifetime investment. Take time, research the opportunity, and don’t allow yourself to be pressured into the decision.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Call my office if you believe you’ve been scammed, or email us at scams@attorneygeneral.gov . We’re here to help.”