- Frank Talaga is facing charges of impersonating an officer and theft, and a criminal complaint says he did it to sell a woman's car for scrap.
- A criminal complaint says the victim left her SUV on someone's property; the property owner had it ticketed before the crime was committed.
- Menasha officer Dan Hoernke shares the red flags in this case so you can avoid being victim to a similar crime.
- Talaga's plea and sentencing are scheduled for January.
(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)
A man faced a judge at the Winnebago County Courthouse, charged with Theft and Impersonating an Officer. And now a woman's car is scrap. I'm your Menasha Neighborhood Reporter Darby McCarthy, and while a court still has time to decide how to rule, a criminal charge alleges this man got a victim's information by pretending to be a police officer.
The man charged is Frank Talaga, and according to a criminal complaint, a woman in Menasha is without a vehicle because she trusted a text from him.
The complaint states the woman got a text on June 26 that said "This is Officer Smith regarding your GMC Arcadia parked at 700 London St. To show proof it's your vehicle I need a picture of your license."
Police say that's a major red flag.
"A person's law enforcement agency will never ask for any of your identifying information, whether that be driver's license, social security number, bank information, stuff like that. That's not going to happen. We don't need those types of things, and we're not going to ask for them over the phone.”
Menasha Police Officer Dan Hoernke says that in the digital age, scams that involve impersonating an officer have gotten worse. But in this case, the criminal complaint says the woman who lives at the address had wanted the car gone. She'd had it ticketed, so the car's owner knew it was likely to be towed soon. So, she was panicked.
“With these scammers, they play off two emotions, and they’re the strongest of human emotions. It's either fear or excitement.”
Unfortunately, once the victim gave her information away, there wasn't much she could do to stop what happened next.
A towing company was called to come and take her car and scrap it.
“From what I understand in this specific case, the towing company thought everything was legitimate and that the gentleman had consent to be in possession of this vehicle.”
Police say if someone asks you for anything like a social security number, a driver's license, or other information over the phone: be suspicious. If police really need something from you, they say you'll get a letter in the mail.
“This case wouldn't have had so much steam for him to commit this crime if those pieces of identifying information – driver's license, title to a vehicle – weren’t so accessible to him.”
Talaga's plea and sentencing is scheduled for January. We will keep you updated on this case as we learn more.