A Northern California woman faces felony charges after she allegedly bilked an elderly Campbell man out of a luxury car and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office reported today that the victim was “smitten” with 30-year-old Samantha Pham of Elk Grove and invested $200,000 in her fledgling company before buying her a Lexus. Prosecutors say the company actually belonged to Pham’s boyfriend and that $50,000 of the pilfered money went towards paying off a victim in Nevada where Pham is also facing criminal charges.
“Ms. Pham criminally took advantage of an lonely, elderly man,” Deputy District Attorney Cherie Boulard said. “Unfortunately, this is such a common scenario that it has a nickname: The Sweetheart Scam. It is unconscionable.
According to prosecutors, the scam began in 2009 when Pham cold-called the victim and flirted with him enough to convince him to give her his ex-wife’s diamond ring. It is alleged that she also encouraged the man to refinance his home, which he had owned free and clear. She then reportedly got him to invest in the financial company she claimed she was starting in Elk Grove. The victim maxed out his credit card to buy her office furniture and then bought her the $73,000 Lexus.
It was about that time that the victim realized he could no longer afford his home, prosecutors say. Pham convinced him to sell it and she pocketed $7,000 as a “referral fee” in the process, according to court records.
By September 2009, Pham cut off all contact with the victim. Her purported office space was never furnished and the lease was abandoned.
Her alleged victim was forced into bankruptcy and decided to notify police.
Pham was arrested Wednesday when investigators located a variety of Louis Vuitton products in her home. The Lexus had been repossessed and the repo man told police he had also repossessed a $100,000 BMW from Pham just months prior. Pham also reportedly gambled away more than $1 million at the Red Rock casino in Placerville between 2009 and 2012.
Pham was arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court this afternoon. She faces up to six years in prison if convicted of felony theft from an elder.