An Elk Grove bombshell allegedly conned a lovestruck, elderly Campbell man and now faces a felony charge of theft from an elder, authorities announced Friday.
Samantha Pham, 30, received a luxury Lexus and a $200,000 investment in a her fledgling company from the victim, who eventually lost his home and filed for bankruptcy, according to a Santa Clara County District Attorney press release.
"Ms. Pham criminally took advantage of a lonely, elderly man," Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said. "Unfortunately, this is such a common scenario that it has a nickname: The Sweetheart Scam. It is unconscionable."
According to the District Attorney's Office, Pham allegedly began the scam in April 2009 by cold-calling the victim, then visiting and flirting with him.
Throughout the relationship, the victim gave Pham his ex-wife’s diamond ring and he refinanced his home—which, according to the DA, he owned free and clear—to lend Pham money to invest in a financial company she wanted to start, called Western Financial. Pham even brought the victim to sign a lease for an Elk Grove Office space. The victim maxed out his credit card to buy her office furniture. Then he bought her a $73,000 Lexus.
At a point, the release states, the victim realized he could no longer afford his home so Pham convinced him to sell it, with Pham pocketing close to $7,000 in a "referral fee."
By September 2009, Pham broke off all contact with the elderly man. The office was never furnished and the office lease abandoned. The victim filed for bankruptcy and called police.
The District Attorney found that the financial company Pham allegedly started was her boyfriend’s "and almost $50,000 of the victim’s pilfered money went to pay off the victim in another criminal case Pham faced in Nevada."
Authorities arrested Pham on Jan. 16, 2013 and investigators found luxury Louis Vuitton items at her home. According to the DA, the man who repossessed the Lexus later told investigators that several months earlier he had repossessed from her a $100,000 BMW. The investigator also discovered that the between 2009 and 2012, Pham had gambled away more than $1 million at the Red Hawk Casino in Shingle Springs.
In Santa Clara County, the Elk Grove resident faces a felony charge of theft from an elder and could face up to six years in prison, if convicted. She is scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon, at 1:45 p.m. in Department 23 of the Hall of Justice.