DeLand, FL – An 82-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran was left on the brink of suicide after two drug addicts scammed him out of his life savings, police said.
DeLand police officers responded to the desperate man’s home on May 8, after the elderly veteran called the Veterans Crisis Center and told them he wanted to kill himself because he had no money left in his bank account, the department said in a press release.
He was still on the phone with the crisis line when officers arrived.
Investigators learned that 31-year-old Jessica Henry and 28-year-old Gregory Dushan took over $50,000 and a vehicle from the elderly veteran.
The unnamed victim said he first met Henry approximately three years ago, and that he had periodically given her money so she could feed her children and pay for transportation to get them to school, police said.
About six months ago, Henry called the veteran and claimed that she had been arrested and had to pay for a drug test required by her probation officer.
Dushan, posing as a probation officer, then got on the phone and demanded that the elderly man pay for Henry’s probation costs.
Dushan continued to call the victim on a daily basis, and ordered him to pay sums ranging from $150 to $1,000.
He threatened to throw him in jail if he did not comply, and even “seized” the victim’s vehicle multiple times until he handed over as much as $1,500, WKMG reported.
“Eventually, the victim gave Henry his vehicle so it would not get seized again,” according to the department’s press release. “It has since been recovered."
Police later learned that the duo was using the cash they stole from the elderly man to support their $500-per-day drug habit, police said.
“Both suspects in this case intentionally coerced and deliberately deceived the victim causing him to deplete his bank account to support their drug habit,” the department said. “The victim was then notified by the bank that his account had a negative balance, which prompted him to want to kill himself because he felt this was his only solution.”
Prior to Dushan’s arrest, the victim received “death threats” telling him to “drop the charges on Henry or he would be killed in a half-hour,” police said.
Dushan and Henry were both arrested and charged with exploitation of an elderly person.
Dushan faces an additional count for impersonating a correction/probation officer, and could face even more charges related to the alleged death threats.
The DeLand Police Department said they have received multiple calls from citizens who want to help the elderly veteran, and that the agency is looking into ways to best assist him, WKMG reported.