The officer investigating informed me that the Department took calls about cases like yours every day. He wished there was more they could do to help, but there really wasn’t. The number traced back to a Jamaican account with no subscriber information. Via newspaper articles, I learned that the scammers lived in cardboard shacks in Jamaica, bought pay-as-you-go phones by the dozens, and murdered each other to get hold of the lists of phone numbers of seniors in the U.S. that they could call to scam.
And, boy, were you on lists! You received several pounds of mail each day, 95% of it fake sweepstakes offers, letters from alleged attorneys offering you money, and, of course, checks that you were not supposed to deposit until you called Bob or Jason or Melanie.
The Jamaican called you later that evening, after both the police officer and I had left. He was now offering you 2.5 million dollars and a car but wanted to know why you had called the police.
I did try to get the number that called most often blocked, but they just switched to another number. Pay-as-you-go cellphones are apparently easy to get in Jamaica, whether via cash transaction or murder, I’m not sure.
It was still going on in November of 2012. Things had quieted down for a while. You started just ignoring the calls. You and Mother both stopped talking to me about them. At this point, I did not know for sure that you had dementia, although it seemed a pretty good bet. Looking back, I wish I’d remembered the rule one applies to dogs and toddlers–“If I’m quiet, you’d better come find me!”
All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, the calls started to come in literally twenty an hour. They called as late as midnight. On the 7th, I was there when you were on the phone with the Jamaican, shouting at him, and asking him to stop calling you. Apparently, he was now asking you to either wire him or buy him a MoneyPak card in the amount of $1100–up considerably from the about $400 he had asked in the past. I finally went down to the basement and disconnected the phone from the main interface. I had tried hiding the phone from you, but that just made you go ballistic.
We had discussed changing your phone number. Both the State Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission, to whom I had complained, had suggested it. You refused. You had had that number for over 40 years.
After things had calmed down, I plugged the phone back in. No sooner had I done so than it rang with an 876 number on the caller ID.
I answered the phone, “Howard County Police, Southern District, may I help you?”
There was a pause, and then a Jamaican voice shouted, “Fuck you!”
“Excuse me,” I said, “who is this, please?”
“I want to speak to Mr. Charles!”
“Mr. Charles does not want to speak to you,” I told him. “He’s had his phone forwarded to our office. From now on, if you dial this number, a police officer will answer.” I told the caller that his calls were considered harassment, were in violation of the law and were being investigated.
He again invited me to reproduce with myself.
We spoke for about half an hour. Every other sentence, he would demand that I get off “his” phone and stop burning his cell phone minutes. I told him all he had to do to get rid of me was hang up and never call back. He then suggested that he was sleeping with my wife. I informed him he had mistaken his sister for someone else.
“Why are you on my phone, white man?” he then demanded.
“Because you tried to call Mr. Charles, and he doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“Get off my phone, white man! Don’t you know that your country has a black president?”
“Yes, I do know that,” I told him. “I don’t think President Obama would be impressed with what you’re doing.”
“Blacks are going to take over your country,” he said. “And, when they do, I’m going to come there and shoot you in the brain for being white.”
“I look forward to meeting you in person,” I said.
“I am a racist,” he told me.
“Yes, sir, you’ve made that very apparent.”
“I don’t have time for white people.”
“Then why,” I asked, “are you calling an elderly white man a hundred times every day?”
“So Mr. Wilson will get off his ass and send me the money he owes me!”
I explained to him that you owed him no money and had already sent him too much. He replied that all Americans owed him money, that Jamaicans lived in poverty because we had colonized their land and enslaved them.
“I know we all look alike to you,” I told him, “but I believe you’ll find that it was the British who ruled your island for a few hundred years. Maybe you should try calling Queen Elizabeth.”
He promised to call back constantly, and he did. But we did not speak to him again that night.
The next day, I made updated calls to the FTC and the Maryland Attorney General; but no one had any suggestions other than changing your phone number.