Former Garwood police chief sentenced in Pennsylvania fraud case for swindling 95-year-old in lottery scheme

GARWOOD, NJ — Former Garwood Police Chief Robert J. Ryan has been sentenced to 23 months in prison following his conviction for defrauding a 95-year-old Pennsylvania man out of almost $29,000.

Ryan, 71, who retired from the department in 2000, also was sentenced to five years probation on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Doylestown, Pa., according to Bucks County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Byrne.

Under the alias of “James Holiday,” Ryan first contacted the unidentified victim in December and informed him he had won $33 million and additional prizes from a lottery. Ryan told the victim that he needed to pay taxes before the prize could be claimed and that a courier (Ryan) would come by to collect, Byrne said. The prosecutor added there was no previously existing relationship between Ryan and his target.
“He (the victim) was then contacted repeatedly, and told he would need to pay more money which is why he gave checks to Ryan on multiple occasions and ultimately traveled to a bank with him to make withdrawals,” Byrne said.

On Dec. 22, Ryan was arrested by Northampton Township police, after attempting to withdraw $3,800 from two accounts at the Richboro branch of Wells Fargo, according to a release from Byrne’s office.

When Ryan attempted to withdraw the $3,800, bank employees called the police. The bank employees blocked the transaction due to more than $20,000 withdrawn earlier that month from the victim’s account.

Byrne said the money has not yet been recovered.
According to the release, Ryan pleaded no contest to charges that included four felony counts of theft by deception. In addition to his prison sentence, Ryan was ordered to repay the victim $28,900.

In his defense, Ryan told Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey Finley he had lost about $30,000 to a similar scheme based in Jamaica and never learned the true identity of his scammers. In an attempt to mitigate his own losses, Ryan used the same hoax to recover all but $1,000 of the money from his victim, the release said.

“The checks were cashed quickly after they were written. Some of the money was sent via wire transfer to other people and some of it may have been kept as cash.” Byrne said. “Once, money is in cash form, it’s extremely difficult to track down for recovery purposes.”

After Ryan’s arrest, the police said his phone rang repeatedly from what looked to be a Jamaican phone number.
“The Jamaican lottery scam played a large role in this case. Lottery scams have been around for quite some time and look like they are here to stay. A lot of them originate out of Jamaica as well as some other countries,” Byrne said.

Garwood Police Chief James Wright told the LocalSource on Sept. 13 that Ryan started with the town as a regular police officer in 1973, and served as chief from September 1992 until his retirement in June 2000.

When asked if Ryan receives a police pension, Wright responded that his police work of approximately 30 years is definitely pensionable.