A 75-year-old Amish widower, afraid his church community would find out about him seeking sex from a prostitute, was scammed out of more than $67,000 from the prostitute and her boyfriend, a prosecutor says.
Jake Byler gave the pair the money because they had convinced him that photos of Byler and the prostitute would appear on the Internet, county prosecutor David Joyce said.
Kimberly M. Webber, 35, and Patrick T. Lansdowne, 41, were indicted Tuesday on six felony charges, including extortion, theft from an elderly person and burglary.
Both remained jailed on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. If convicted, each faces a possible sentence of two to eight years in prision.
Byler was seeking sex when he responded to a newspaper ad and was referred to Webber, who met with him about six times beginning in early 2004, according to authorities.
"He made a few errors in judgment, but he certainly didn't deserve what happened to him," Joyce said.
Joyce said Byler's bank, suspicious about large withdrawals from his account this year, notified his son and daughter-in-law, who had power of attorney. The daughter-in-law contacted the sheriff's department, which eventually persuaded Byler to reveal what was happening.
He told detectives that Lansdowne had convinced him that someone broke into his rural home east of Cleveland and installed a camera in the bedroom.
Lansdowne said he knew a man who would get rid of the pictures for money. Byler tapped into his accounts, took out a loan and gave the pair cash he had stored in his home.
"When he realized he was getting duped he actually broke down and started to cry," Joyce said Wednesday. "He thought these guys were friends and helping him get the pictures off the Internet."
A deacon at Byler's church helped videotape Webber receiving Byler's final $500 payment, authorities said. After Webber received the money, deputies stopped the car she was riding in and arrested her.
Two men accused of being accomplices — Stanley D. Roy, 42, of Cleveland, and George C. Steffen, 63, of Brunswick — were charged with theft and receiving stolen property.
There was no telephone listing for Steffen.
Roy said he drove Webber to Byler's house so the two could meet for sex, but assumed Byler was Webber's "sugar daddy."
"He didn't seem to be doing anything against his will," Roy told The Plain Dealer.
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