After stealing at least $3,000, a scam artist operating in Merced was arrested in Tulare County August 8th. Rey Martinez Lespier was at large for a little under two months when he was arrested for grand theft and theft by false pretense.
Lespier first became known to the Merced area when he began to advertise himself as a lawyer on a local Spanish language radio station. According to his ad, Lespier could help people with their immigration status for a fee.
On May 18th, a victim went to America Legal Services—Lespier’s front company—on 1764 U Street and paid Lespier a $3,000 fee for his services. When he did not deliver on his promise, the victim returned to the office, only to find the building vacant.
Once the Merced Police Department posted a photograph of the suspect, multiple tips came in leading officers to a secluded cabin in the Three Rivers area of Tulare County.
Once there, they were able to identify and arrest Martinez, as well as secure documents and computers that may eventually lead to identifying more victims of this crime, as well as proving other financial crimes. Martinez was booked into the Merced Sheriff’s Department Correctional Facility.
In a press release, the Merced Police Department thanked the community for providing the tips necessary to apprehend the suspect. This case proved unusual considering that the victim was a part of an immigrant community that usually fails to report crime based on fear of deportation.
Given the success of this case, Lt. Tom Trindad of the Merced PD was adamant that a victim’s immigration status has no bearing on a suspect being brought to justice.
“When you report a crime we do not care what your status is in this country. All we care about is that you are a victim of a crime and need justice,” said Lt. Trindad, “Anyone who is a victim of crime should at least report the incident and do not need to fear law enforcement contacting ICE. In my almost 29 year law enforcement career I have never asked a victim their legal status.”
Police Officers are asking anyone with any information regarding this incident to contact Detective Adrian at (209) 385-4731, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “ComVIP” as the “keyword” in the text message.
Merced Sun-Star: Police arrest suspect in scam