10 Investigates helps bust elderly scammers

SPRING HILL, Florida -- 94-year-old Fern Hughes lived on her own in a modest Hernando County home, but may have been a little too trusting.

When her family discovered she had been paying a "handymen" for random jobs on her home's exterior, roof, and in the attic, they got suspicious. A closer look at receipts revealed the woman had paid more than $8,000 over the course of two weeks to four people, apparently working together.

"These guys came on a Sunday, then on a Monday, then on a Tuesday," said Fern's son, Gary Hughes, who lives in Illinois. "She didn't remember they were there the day before, [she just] wrote out a check and handed it to them."

When Gary flew down to take care of his mother, he reported the alleged abuse to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO). But when a detective determined there was no reason to file a report, he contacted 10 Investigates.

Using Fern's cancelled checks, deconstruction of the license numbers of those who cashed the checks, and a receipt book they left behind, 10 Investigates was able to identify four suspects who appeared to have taken advantage of Hughes:

  • Kimberly Langevin, 48;
  • Alicia Estep, 37;
  • Doug Wood, 44;
  • and Tom Horne, 48.

The receipt book was also filled with dozens of other Pasco County and Hernando County homeowners who also appeared to have paid the workers.

10 Investigates turned the information over to HCSO, who then launched an investigation. Over the course of the next month, Fern Hughes passed away. But HCSO also issued warrants for the four suspects, ultimately arresting Langevin earlier this month, and Estep on July 10. Charges were for grand theft and unlicensed contracting.

UPDATE JULY 24: Wood has also been arrested, leaving only Horne at-large.

UPDATE AUGUST 8: Horne was arrested by the Hernando Co. Sheriff's Office. All four face charges of fraud & larceny.

"I would tell them that they aught to be ashamed of themselves," Gary Hughes said of the four suspects. "People taking advantage of old people. Scammers. I can't stand them."

Deputies are looking for other victims who may have paid Langevin, Estep, Wood, or Horne. Contact the Hernando County Sheriff's Office with any information.

Law enforcement is also looking for Wood and Horne. If you have any information on their whereabouts, contact Crimestoppers at 866-990-TIPS. You may be eligible for a cash reward.

Find 10 Investigates reporter Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.


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