2 arrested in NIPSCO bill scam in Gary

2012-05-15T19:45:00Z 2012-05-15T23:15:27Z 2 arrested in NIPSCO bill scam in GaryBy Lauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

GARY | A Chicago man and a Gary woman were taken into custody Monday afternoon in Gary after allegedly stealing money from NIPSCO customers entering the utility's office to pay their bills.

According to police, a 29-year-old Gary woman told police about 1 p.m. that she went to NIPSCO, 3229 Broadway, to pay a bill. The woman said she was walking into the building when a man and a woman sitting in a car yelled to her, police said.

The pair allegedly told the woman they could get $150 taken off her bill if she gave them her account number. The man said the woman in the car had a friend who worked for NIPSCO and would handle the transaction via the man's cellphone, police said.

The victim gave the man her NIPSCO account number, and he appeared to be entering numbers on his cellular phone. The man then told her he put more than $700 on her account using his own money, then told her she had to give him $300 to make up the difference, police said.

The victim said she only had $200 and the man accepted that, police said. The man also gave her a confirmation number.

The victim said she had a bill to pay for a friend who was waiting in her car and the man offered to take that as well, police said. When the victim said she had a money order to pay for that bill, the man allegedly said he could not help her.

As the victim and the man spoke, the woman in the car with the man allegedly approached another customer with the same offer to pay her bill.

The victim entered NIPSCO to pay the friend's bill and was approached by a security guard and told him of the situation. The security guard told police a similar scam happened there Friday and then called police.

Officers stopped the vehicle at 39th Street and Broadway, and the driver said he just left NIPSCO, police said.

Marcus Witt, 26, of the 9600 block of South Greenwood Avenue in Chicago, was arrested and charged with theft in connection with the scam, police said. He was wanted on an outstanding warrant out of California for driving while suspended, police said.

Bianca Simmons, 23, of the 5000 block of West 20th Avenue in Gary, was arrested and charged with theft in connection with the scam, police said.

Officers drove Witt and Simmons back to NIPSCO, where they were positively identified by the victim, police said. Witt allegedly told police he paid for the victim's bill on his cellphone and gave her a confirmation number, but refused to show police his cellphone before offering to pay the woman back.

While being processed at the Gary Police Department, Witt allegedly told police he was stopped in Chicago for doing the same thing, but police let him go after he paid the victim back.

Cpl. Gabrielle King, of the Gary Police Department, cautioned the public against deals that claim to save money but require paying cash.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," King said. "Don't give anybody your money or your account number."

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