Elder abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins warn the Illinois public about a Park Ridge man who is known for scamming seniors out of money and valuables. Most recently he established a phony company in the northwest suburb, targeting as many as 100 victims in the Midwest.
The man, 300 pound David Ray Wooten, was known to authorities as Lothario the Large – a reference to the immoral seducer of women in the prolific novel Don Quixote. He recently rented apartment in Park Ridge, which he worked out of for 21 days before abruptly vanishing, according to local police.
During those 21 days, Wooten scammed his “customers” out of three cars, several works of art, and significant items of sports memorabilia, including an autographed Dan Marino football and a 1907 Chicago Cubs World Series poster.
In 2007, Wooten was arrested for a burglary is Des Plaines. Now, six years later, he is being charged with stealing from at least five people from his fake Park Ridge company on Northwest Highway. He is currently in Cook County Jail on $20,000 bail. Authorities say the man “sweet talked” and “seduced” his way into scamming elderly men and women out of their savings and valuables.
One of his victims was 82-year-old Margie McCurry of Des Plaines. She met Wooten in 2006, just after her husband died. The man claimed to be a New York City firefighter who was injured in September 11th, even going so far as to have firefighter license plates on his truck.
He pressured McCurry to hire him at her store, an antique retailer, and she hired him part time. Then, in 2007, she alleges he burglarized her store, stealing jewelry, antiques, a gun, and lockbox containing bundles of cash. McCurry lost her life savings in the theft, after which Wooten vanished.
McCurry is a retired Cook County sheriff’s deputy, however, and quickly put her training to use. She posted online ads seeking assistance catching Wooten, who she later learned was in Rockwell County, Texas. One woman saw the ads and contacted McCurry, saying her husband became suspicious of Wooten after he claimed to be a retired Chicago police officer. Apparently, Wooten was using McCurry’s late husband’s name, Jack Ozee, in Texas.
Texas police ultimately arrested Wooten on a warrant for burglarizing McCurry. At the time of his arrest in 2007, he was carrying several fake IDs. He served nearly a year in prison for fraud and possession of fake identification, although he still faces charges for the McCurry theft.
Wooten was also arrested in 1991 (also in Texas), 1994 (in New York), and 2004 (in Chicago). In the 2004 case he was sentenced to federal prison. Five years later, the judge ordered him to return to prison for violating probation and served a 14-month sentence. Wooten’s son sent a letter to that judge asking him to help his family, saying his father was mentally unstable.
The latest crimes in Park Ridge involve his fictitious company, Poulakos Liquidators, which he owned under the name Jim. Another victim of the recent scam was 78-year-old Herb Joseph, who gave Wooten a mountain bike he claimed he could sell for $300. Joseph gave the bike to Wooten before he was paid any money, and the next thing he knew, Wooten had vanished.
Unfortunately, the financial exploitation of seniors is not uncommon: one report by the National Institute of Justice determined that these criminal acts cost American elderly nearly $3 billion every year. Additionally, many experts state that elder abuse is only going to intensify as the baby boomer generation ages.
Senior abuse attorneys at Pintas & Mullins urge all families with aging loved ones to keep a stringent eye out for any suspicious people like David Ray Wooten. These predators often have elaborate back stories that would be difficult to check out and typically use fake names to hide criminal records. If you or a loved one was exploited or abused by an elder predator, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.