A Seaford woman has made national headlines after luring a suspected scammer over the phone to her own arrest – and filming it all.
January 20 started off as a typical day for 73-year-old Jean Ebbert. The Waverly Avenue resident was working on crossword puzzles and texting with her son, Rusty Ebbert, which she does every day.
Just before noon, she received a call on her house phone and heard a man sobbing. At first she thought it was her son-in-law, Emmanuel, who she says is “a big prankster”.
“But then he says, ‘Grandma, I need help, I had a car accident,'” Ebbert explained. The man on the phone told him he had been charged with impaired driving and needed bail money.
But his two grandchildren, who are in elementary and middle school, are too young to drive, so Ebbert immediately knew the call was a scam.
A retired 911 call dispatcher for the Nassau County Police Department, she’s hung up on numerous phone scammers in the past, she said. But last Thursday, she decided to change things. “I started playing the game,” she said. “I said to him, ‘Oh my god, don’t call your mother, she’s going to be crazy! Leave it to me!’ So they thought I was falling for it.
The scammer gave Ebbert a “case number” and a Pennsylvania-based phone number, then hung up. She received several other calls, one informing her that her “grandson” was being held in New Jersey municipal court, and another in which the caller identified himself as his grandson’s attorney. son, “Matt Levine”, who needed $8,000 in cash for her. the guarantee of the grandson.
Ebbert continued to scam the scammer. “‘Can I Venmo for you?'” she asked him innocently. Confused, he told her that was not an option; it had to be cash. She told “Levine” she had the money on hand and it was for a contractor who was bringing her new kitchen cabinets – which was not true. The scammer said his surety on bail would be in touch.
All the while, Ebbert was still texting with his son. Although he thought little of it from the start, he said, he was growing increasingly worried. He asked his two sisters to call their mother and check on her.
Out of an abundance of caution, Ebbert alerted the NCPD’s 7th Precinct and two police officers were dispatched to her home. They arrived shortly after 1 p.m. and filed a report. She got another call from the scammer and put her phone on speaker to let the officers listen.
After several more calls, she was finally told to put the $8,000 in an envelope and deliver it to a “bail bond” who would arrive at her house in about 10 minutes. “I’m looking at the cops, the cops are looking at me, and one of them runs out the door to move his patrol car to the fire station,” Ebbert recounted. The other officer also moved his vehicle out of sight and back inside.
At that moment, fear invaded him: “I was wondering, what if he had a gun? What if the police were to shoot him? she remembers. “All these things are going through your mind. I’m worried.”
Her son, who lives in Lindenhurst, was also worried. Concerned about the situation, his mother did not answer his text messages. Having access to the Ring doorbell camera system at his mother’s house, he checked the corresponding app, saw the police cars and began to worry. “I saw this guy walking to his house – I was like, it’s not happening,” he said. “There was a brief moment when I didn’t know what was going on.”
While her mother was on the phone with a scammer, another man – identified by police as Joshua Estrella Gomez, of Mineola – appeared on her doorstep as a “guarantor”. Ebbert handed Gomez a sealed manila envelope – filled with paper towels – and as he turned to leave, he was accosted by the officers, who were hiding inside the house. Rusty Ebbert watched the entire arrest of Gomez on the Ring doorbell camera.
Her mother, a 911 dispatcher from 1989 to 2012, said the experience helped her on her mission. “I think that helped me be fast,” she said. “[In that position] you had to know where everyone in your neighborhood was. You could never change your tone – you always had to stay calm in the chaos.
A resident of Seaford since 1984, Ebbert raised her four children – Deanna, Wendy, Melissa and Rusty – in the hamlet.
According to an NCPD report, Gomez, 28, has been charged with attempted third-degree robbery. He was the only individual charged in connection with the incident. He was released on a ticket and is due back in court on February 3.