Sting fails to nail fraud suspect
A man arrested in a Manhattan Beach police elder fraud sting was released last Monday after charges were dropped by the L.A. County District Attorney.Police arrested Robert Nagao, a transient, on Dec. 21 after he wrote bad checks as part of an alleged scam involving Robert Good, a 67-year-old musician from Inglewood. Good told police that Nagao approached him late November and promised Good’s R&B band, Blue 17, a music tour in Japan, a photo shoot, commercial endorsements and a $160,000 advance.
“He said he was with Sony Music Group and was interested in Good’s music,” Manhattan Beach Police Detective Michael Rosenberger said. “He asked for a CD and told him ‘My boss at Sony loves it.’”
Nagao also promised to help Good out of his financial problems. The suspect wrote three personal checks totaling $11,400 to Good’s creditors and introduced him to someone he said was a lawyer who could help him.
“He showed me a lot of papers showing what he did for other people, how much he helped other people,” Good said. “I thought, ‘Maybe he’s legit.’”
Nagao allegedly told Good that he needed cash to cover upfront wardrobe costs for a soda commercial he claimed to have arranged for Blue 17. Nagao wrote personal checks to Good and instructed him to cash them through his own bank account.
Over the next couple weeks, Good said he cashed $7,000 in checks, handing the cash over to Nagao.
“When I told him I didn’t feel right going in and cashing his checks, he told me he was helping me,” Good said. “He said if I didn’t want to, then we could drop the whole deal.”
When a Manhattan Beach bank alerted Good that $6,000 in checks he had cashed at their branch had bounced, he reported the matter to Manhattan police.
Police arranged a sting the next day. Good met Nagao at a Manhattan Beach hotel under the pretense of discussing signing the supposed music deal. Police arrested the suspect in the hotel lobby shortly after he arrived. He was transferred to an LA County jail after he couldn’t meet the $90,000 bail.
Nagao was charged with elder fraud, grand theft, and burglary at a Torrance court last Monday, but was released by the district attorney. Police were unable to prove that Nagao had intentionally perpetuated fraud.
“He was released because there was not sufficient evidence,” Detective Rosenberger said. “There was no bank statement showing that his account had been closed. How do they know they weren’t really just bounced checks?”
Police learned of four other possible victims in Palos Verdes, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, and Inglewood. At least one of those cases was also elder fraud, which involves victims 65 and older.
According to Rosenberger, losses ranged from a couple hundred dollars per victim to $12,000 Nagao purportedly stole from a Beverly Hills family, to whom he claimed to be a movie producer.
“It’s the pattern that’s going to get him hopefully,” Rosenberger said. “He can’t be all of these things to all of these people. We’re hoping that the through the tip line we can identify some other victims.”
Anybody who believes they may also have been a victim should call the Manhattan Beach Police Department at (310) 802-5171.