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Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008 10:00 pm

Who: Back row, left to right: Rich Wahl, Larry Powers of Madera, Michael Walker of Auburn, John Anagnos, Larry Nies, Dan Tillman, Pat Hale, Mike Nakagawa, Dave Costa and Jason Eells; front row: Ron Goehring, Marty Weybret, Christi Weybret, Fred Weybret, Chet Hacke of Grass Valley, Dave Vaccarezza and Larry Mettler.

Occupations: Our leader was Larry Mettler who runs a local farm and winery with his family. The Weybrets own the News-Sentinel. Others farm, teach, collect garbage, fight fires and do jobs that didn't make it into this reporter's notebook. Some are even lucky enough to be retired.

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Send Us Your Snapshots!

Imagine answering the door to find a man claiming to be a gardener who is offering you to fix your lawn, which apparently needs fertilizer. Once he and a crew of several men finishes their work, your lawn will be beautiful again and more drought tolerant, he tells you. He says it will take about three or four bags of fertilizer and seed priced at $20 a bag. 

 However, instead of a beautiful green lawn you are left with one that is entirely covered in dirt, after the crew dumps bag after bag onto your lawn. The crew demands payment of several thousand dollars due to the amount of bags they used.

This is a new scam which two victims have already reported happening in Lodi, according to the Lodi Police Department.

“They spread so much stuff on it that you can’t even see the lawn,” said one victim, who did not wish to be named for safety. All of the dirt and fertilizer had to be removed before it killed the lawn.

The suspects in these cases were four to five Hispanic males riding in one to two pickup trucks with several bags of fertilizer and seed in the bed. Both trucks were described as older 1970s to 1980s models, and one was faded black. These suspects appear to be targeting seniors.

Alone at the time, the victim wrote a check for $500, not knowing how to handle a situation that had gone out of control. The victim’s family were able to help get the check stopped, but heard that another resident who was victimized had seen a return of the scamming gardeners when a check bounced. The scammers allegedly followed the resident to the bank to see that they were paid.

“It’s elder abuse,” the victim said.

For many elders, situations like these can be intimidating. Police ask that residents share information about this scam with friends and neighbors, so people will be equipped to protect themselves. They also ask that residents report any activity they believe to be related to this scam to the Lodi Police Department as soon as possible at 209-333-6728.

Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at christinac@lodinews.com.

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