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Man used ‘mafia’ threats to scam woman out of $159K, AG says

A Washington County man used threats of mafia retaliation to scam a retired Lancaster County teacher out of her life savings, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

Agents arrested Yancey Taylor, 45, on Tuesday morning after investigating the alleged years-long investment fraud. 

Taylor met the now 69-year-old woman, a retired Lancaster County teacher, in 2012 when she rented him a home in Westmoreland County, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a press conference Tuesday.

The woman described Taylor as charming and charismatic, and he reportedly won over her trust in part by helping her collect rent owed by a previous tenant. Taylor then told her about an “investment” opportunity with a guaranteed return.

Over the following months, Taylor asked for more and more money, saying she needed to keep putting in funds to ensure she did not lose her initial investment, Shapiro said.

Taylor eventually told the woman that she needed to pay fees to “The Boss” and that the mafia would retaliate against her if she failed to do so, according to the attorney general’s office. At times, she received threatening phone calls from a person claiming to be The Boss, but the voice sounded disguised or distorted, she told investigators.

Authorities later determined that Taylor was the sole perpetrator in the alleged scam.

The woman grew increasingly terrified and met Taylor several times at bus and train stations in Lancaster and Dauphin counties to give him cash for the demanded “investments.” When she later spoke with authorities, she described those hand-overs as “bizarre, stressful, anxiety-ridden things,” according to court documents.

She eventually contacted authorities, who discovered Taylor had gambled away her investments at casinos throughout the state. She had lost $159,000 by that time, in part through liquidating a retirement account and taking out loans against her home.

The attorney general’s office believes Taylor may have more victims. Shapiro urged anyone who believes they have information about the scam to contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 717-787-6858.

Shapiro reminded residents not to feel embarassed about falling victim to a scam. People like Taylor, he said, are “professional liars” who are skilled in scaring or coercing people into their schemes.

Prosecutors also used Tuesday’s press conference to praise the level of cooperation between local and state authorities. Although the scam was reported in Lancaster, authorities ultimately turned the investigation over the state because of its complexity involved, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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