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By Amber Hayden
GLENWOOD CITY— Longtime Glenwood City area resident, Bob Bartz, hopes that at least one person will learn from his near mistake that took place last Monday afternoon, January 7.
“Who would of thought something like this could happen here in Glenwood City,” said Bartz’s grandson Ben Bartz.
Bartz was contacted via phone by a number from Pennsylvania stating that his grandson, Thomas Gillespie, was in jail and needed help from him in the way of $8,000.
“When you get that call you become paralyzed almost, but I told him I didn’t have the amount he needed available,” said Bob. “Even the $1,500 was too much.”
Bartz explained there was no way he could acquire that much in that amount of time and said he could get $1,500 which would be ten percent of what was needed.
“It sounded just like him,” Bartz said. “He was crying and said his nose had been broken in the accident and he had some stitches.”
Thomas, the son of Sue Bartz Gillespie, was commissioned into the Marines two months ago, and the person pretending to be Thomas said he didn’t want the Marines or anyone in the family finding out what had happened.
According to Bartz, he was told that his grandson Thomas had been in an accident over the weekend and there had been drugs located inside the crashed vehicle. After the call came in, initially, all he could think was now everything Thomas had worked for to get into the Marines would be gone.
“He worked so hard to get into the Marines, after having to wait for ten years to even try to get in,” he explained. “It would all be gone now.”
Bartz said as soon as he had gotten the information from what he thought was a police officer he called his bank in Boyceville and attempted to transfer the funds, but the teller said the routing and account number would not work and that she believed it could be a scam.
He called the phone number back that he had been given, only for them to give him a new set of routing and account numbers which also, in the end didn’t work.
“I called my other grandson Ben (Bartz) and told him that Thomas was in trouble, and they know each other really well. Thomas and Ben are the same age,” stated Bartz. “He came over while I was still on the phone with them and took it from me and talked to them.”
“When I got on the phone with them, I told them what they were doing was immoral and illegal to prey on the elderly like this,” Ben stated of his brief conversation with an individual that had identified himself as Richard Benson, the supposed attorney in the case.
Ben explained there had been several calls back and forth before his grandfather had gotten a hold of him including one in which he said he attempted to acquire the money for Thomas, he said, also stating it was scary that they can be so convincing on the phone just to scam money from people.
Before any of this had happened, Ben said his cousin Thomas had sent him a SnapChat twenty to thirty minutes before saying it was good to spend time with the family over Christmas, when Ben showed his grandfather the pictures it allowed him to feel relief knowing that Thomas was okay.
What was odd to Bob and Ben was that the person on the other end of the phone line had known personal information about Thomas and where they had gotten the information, as well as they wanted Bob to take the money to a Wal-Mart and to send the wire from there.
“They didn’t know I would have had to have Ben take me to Wal-Mart because I don’t drive,” Bob said.
The phone company called Bob the following day stating not to call any number beginning with a 928 prefix as it costs a dollar a minute.
Ben explained that with the generation gap now days, anyone with a cell phone or home phone should allow a number they don’t recognize to go to voicemail. However, for the older generation, they were taught it was, and still is, the right thing to answer the phone even if they don’t recognize the number.
Thomas’s parents took all of the numbers that Bob wrote down last Monday and were going to be in contact with the police department, but at this time Bob does not know what has come of that part of the situation.
Bob and Ben hope that others will learn from this in order to not be scammed in the future, and he is thankful for his grandson Thomas being safe and sound after receiving a phone call from him later Monday evening.
“If it can help someone in the future, I was very convinced that it was Thomas,” said Bob.
St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson weighed in on the subject, stating, never to give out personal information over the phone in any circumstance. Knudson also explained the only scam he was still aware of was the one claiming to be the IRS on tax liens.
“Over the past year, if my memory is correct, we’ve also had the scam of an injured relative or relative in jail in another country and they need money,” Knudson stated.