A Redwood City man who allegedly bilked several elderly county residents out of thousands of dollars by claiming he needed a loan to pay for his wife’s recent miscarriage or his home foreclosure has been arrested and is being held in San Mateo County Jail on $750,000 bail. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said today that James Keeton, 62, of Redwood City appeared in court Monday to face 13 felony counts of theft by false pretenses and elder abuse. He will appear again in court on March 27 to be appointed a private defender, Wagstaffe said.
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 the amount of $3,000 up to nearly $24,000, according to the district attorney’s office. Court documents say Keeton allegedly used a number of excuses as to why he needed the money, including 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 today. 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 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 is asked to contact Detective Josh Chilton at (650) 780-7141.
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