South Dakota furniture store owner foils multi-state scam that targeted woman with dementia

YANKTON, S.D. (KTIV) – A scam artist, with contacts right here in the U.S., nearly took a Yankton, South Dakota, woman’s money, furniture and dignity.

But a quick-thinking furniture salesman stopped the scam in its tracks. KTIV is Digging Deeper, investigating how a scammer targeted a 71-year-old woman with dementia, and what brought the whole plot to a screeching halt.

In this case, the scammers went deep enough to find out that the woman had dementia, that she lived in Yankton, South Dakota, and because she didn’t have a car, the scammers needed to call a taxi to take her to the bank and other stores.

The primary scammer, who called himself “David,” even paid her phone bill one time, because he knew he needed to keep her phone on to keep the scam going. To the scammer, it was likely a return on investment.

Barbara Stahlecker raced from her home in Norfolk, Nebraska, to Yankton, South Dakota. She’d just gotten word her estranged sister, Sharon Biscardi, had been involved in a scam. But Stahlecker had no idea just how much money her sister had lost.

“I guessed easily $10,000. But I don’t know how long this has been going on,” she said.

The scam was stopped by an unlikely hero. Another “David,” but this one was a furniture salesman in Yankton. David Stibral said he got a seemingly normal call from the scammer. And when he entered the home, things seemed normal at first.

“As I walked through numbers with her, she would always say, ‘Well, let me call David,’ let me call this other person I had not met yet, who was not there present in the conversation,” said Stibral.

Stibral then picked up on Biscardi’s mental health issues, and the story got weirder.

“He worked for Mega Millions and that was consistent with her story. But almost everything else that she had told me about him didn’t match what he told me about himself. So that was a huge red flag,” explained Stibral.

Stibral could’ve easily walked into the home, got quotes for all the different furniture, including her exact table, and sold it. That is his job after all. But he didn’t do that. Once he got in contact with the family, they were able to sit down and figure out just how pervasive this scam was.

Stahlecker has spent months investigating the scam against her sister. And she’s found real people involved here in the U.S. Biscardi sent checks to a woman in Texas. Wells Fargo told Stahlecker the woman actually walked into the bank to deposit the check.

Another scrap of paper in Biscardi’s home referenced the name and address of a man in Wisconsin. A search of public records shows the man does live at the address the scammers wanted the check sent to.

And finally, Biscardi sent a money order to a woman in Colorado. And now, the South Dakota Attorney General’s office has asked police in Colorado to interview the woman.

Perhaps most shockingly, Stahlecker called a number for the scammer a few weeks ago, and to her surprise, David answered.

“He picked up the phone and said ‘Sharon’ and I said ‘No.’ And he said, ‘This must be her sister. And I said yes it is.’ So he’s still answering the phone; he’s not even changed his number,” said Stahlecker.

Stahlecker provided us with emails that show the South Dakota Attorney General’s office is investigating the case. For his part in stopping the scam, Stibral doesn’t want any clou. But he does want Siouxlanders to look out for one another.

It was a major challenge for Stibral to contact Stahlecker because Biscardi couldn’t remember her sister’s phone number. But looking around at the pictures on the walls, Stibral was able to coax out her sister’s name.

He had to go on Facebook to find, and message, the sister.

Stahlecker had two greatest fears if the scam wasn’t stopped. She said it’s scary to think about her sister having no furniture and no money, but there’s a more terrifying scenario. She said the scammer, David, told her sister that once she sold the furniture, he’d move her out to Colorado. And since the scammer does have contacts here in the U.S., she worries about what might’ve happened to her sister if she was whisked away.

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