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Fugitive from Virginia arrested for allegedly scamming elderly man in Petaluma for over $4,000

PIX Now - Morning Edition 6/13/24
PIX Now - Morning Edition 6/13/24 12:58

Petaluma officers arrested a fugitive suspected of taking advantage of an elderly person and robbing him of several thousand dollars, police said Wednesday.

On May 16, police received a missing persons report about an 85-year-old man who went missing after he left his home to go to the store.

At the time, police found the man's car unoccupied in the parking lot of a Trader Joe's grocery store, but he was nowhere in the area. 

His family told police they had spoken to him on the phone shortly before police arrived and could hear someone in the background trying to sell him jewelry.

By using the man's cellphone location, police figured out he was in the area of Cotati. Officers also saw that he had just made a bank transaction at a local casino.

An hour later, the missing man returned to his vehicle. He said he had been approached by a man who wanted to sell him gold jewelry. 

The suspect drove him to various banks and the casino to withdraw more than $4,000, which he took in exchange for the jewelry. The victim was transported back to his car and the jewelry was determined to be fake, with minimal value.

Police looked at surveillance footage from the casino and were able to identify the license plate of the suspect's vehicle. Through further investigation, officers identified the 25-year-old suspect, who they say is named "Matei." Police allege that Matei was previously contacted by officers in Daly City in 2023 on suspicion of similar behavior. A warrant for his arrest was issued.

On Friday, police on patrol spotted Matei's vehicle at a shopping center, conducted a traffic stop, and took him into custody. Matei was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of felony financial elder abuse.

Police said that after they ran Matei's fingerprints, they discovered that he had an alias and was a fugitive out of Virginia on a warrant for alleged abduction by force and robbery by force.   

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