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Posted 3/10/21

Man indicted in string of bank robberies A man who authorities say robbed multiple Rhode Island banks during a three-day spree in January has been indicted on federal charges. Vaughn Watrous, 44, was arrested by Providence Police days after he allegedly

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POLICE NEWS

POLICE & COURTS DIGEST

Posted

Man indicted in string of bank robberies

A man who authorities say robbed multiple Rhode Island banks during a three-day spree in January has been indicted on federal charges.

Vaughn Watrous, 44, was arrested by Providence Police days after he allegedly committed three heists – including one at the Santander Bank branch on Reservoir Avenue in Cranston – and attempted a fourth.

Watrous faces three counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery, according to a statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Richard Myrus regarding the indictment. He has been held as the Adult Correctional Institutions since his arrest.

According to prosecutors, Watrous previously served time in federal prison following multiple prior bank robbery convictions. Those convictions occurred in 1997 in Utah and in 2003, 2015 and 2016 in Providence. He was sentenced to 92 months in prison following his most recent conviction in Rhode Island.

Authorities say Watrous’s latest robbery spree began Jan. 19, when he allegedly robbed a Santander branch on North Main Street in Providence. The next day, he is alleged to have robbed a Citizens Bank branch in Providence’s Kennedy Plaza.

Watrous allegedly attempted to rob a TD Bank branch in North Providence on Jan. 21. The Santander heist in Cranston for which he is charged occurred the same day.

“It is alleged that, in each incident, tellers were handed notes demanding cash,” a statement from prosecutors reads.

Watrous was arrested Jan. 24 based on a warrant issued from Cranston Police.

Providence men charged in ‘grandparent scam’

Two Providence residents have been indicted on fraud and identity theft charges for their alleged roles in a “grandparent scam” targeting local senior citizens, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Vidal “Sandy” Roquez, 35, and Schmitt A. Prado, 26, are charged with taking part in a conspiracy aimed at defrauding ”at least nine” seniors living in Cranston, Warwick, Portsmouth, Tiverton and South Kingstown – as well as the Massachusetts communities of Northborough, Shrewsbury and Weston – of thousands of dollars, prosecutors say.

The indictments formally charge the men with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors allege that in their capacity as participants in the conspiracy, Roquez and Prado “sometimes posed briefly on the telephone as the victims’ relative, sounding upset or ill to disguise their voice, to further persuade the victim to provide the cash.”

Another co-conspirator, posing as an attorney, would then instruct the targets of the scam “to provide the cash to a courier or bail bondsman that would arrive at their home to collect the cash,” prosecutors say. “The victims were told that a ‘gag order’ was in place on their relative’s legal matter that prohibited the victims from sharing information about the matter.”

The U.S. Attorney’s statement continues: “In many instances, victims reported to law enforcement that the person who arrived at their home to collect the cash did so in a white van and wore a work uniform type vest.”

Prosecutors say the charges against Roquez and Prado stem from a Feb. 18, 2020, complaint to Little Compton Police. In that incident, a resident of the town told police he had “received a call from a female purporting to be his granddaughter and that she had been arrested and was in need of bail money.”

A man identifying himself as an attorney then came on the line to say that the target’s granddaughter “had crashed into a police cruiser while taking a selfie and that $9,000 in cash was needed to bail his granddaughter out of jail.” The caller instructed the target that a bail bondsman would respond to his home to take the payment, prosecutors say.

Little Compton Police responded to the target’s home and were present when Prado arrived to collect the money. At that point, Prado was arrested.

A subsequent investigation “led law enforcement to identify the white van described by many of the victims,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement reads. That vehicle was then tied to Roquez.

“Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeting seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement reads. “If you are a victim or know a victim of elder fraud, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP or go to ftc.gov/complaint.”

-- Daniel Kittredge

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