For release on July 23, 2012
Janet Berry, Deputy District Attorney
Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud Unit
SOUTH BAY LANDSCAPE SCAMMER SUSPECT ARRESTED A Gilroy man is facing charges for a string of South Bay landscaping scams, suspected of having pocketed money upfront for numerous yard work jobs – and then disappearing. Tricked homeowners – in several cases senior citizens - were left with jobs uncompleted, piles of uncleared brush and damaged yards. Michael D. Oliveira, 43, was arrested by Gilroy Police on a warrant Saturday, July 21, 2012. Released after posting a $25,000 bail, Oliveira is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Clara County Court on Sept. 14, 2012 for 12 counts of petty theft and eight counts of elder fraud. “We hope this will ensure that the suspect will never again knock on the doors of unsuspecting people of the South Bay,” Deputy District Attorney Janet Berry said. “It goes beyond badly trimmed trees. He stole from and betrayed the trust of people who took him at his word.”
Investigators believe that Oliveira fooled at least 20 homeowners in Gilroy and Morgan Hill into hiring him.
Complaints of a smooth-talking scammer began in the spring. Victims of Oliveira’s alleged crimes described him as charming and offering to do difficult landscape work for a song.
In one case, Oliveira allegedly convinced an 87-year-old Gilroy resident that he would cut down some unwanted trees in her yard. At first the victim refused to pay him the $300 in advance until he removed all of the fallen branches. However, the suspect convinced her to pay him the money anyway, suggesting he needed to fix his truck so that he could haul the debris away. He never showed up again.
In another case, an elderly Gilroy couple in their 80s hired him to do some tree trimming for $450. He “butchered” two trees and left the debris laying in the yard when he left for lunch. He never returned.
Experts say that residents should not hire strangers who show up at their doors plying services of any kind. Instead, residents should only hire reputable businesses found through references and other legitimate sources.
If elderly residents feel that they have been scammed, they can contact 1-877-DA-ELDER. ###