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Man extorted $90K from grandmother, police say

(Sam Penrod/KSL TV)

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PROVO — A man is facing charges of extortion and abuse of an elderly adult after police say he bilked his grandmother out of $90,000.

Provo police learned of the alleged crime after some concerned neighbors called police Sunday after they said the grandmother left church very upset. Sadly, it didn't take long for the officers to unravel Derick Pettey’s string of lies that he allegedly used to fleece his grandmother out of her life savings.

“He had told her that her life was in danger, that his own son’s life was in danger and that if she didn’t give him money to pay off ‘the bad people,’ … the bad people would come and kill them over this drug debt,” said Provo police Lt. Brandon Post.

It was a story that police said the 21-year-old told his grandmother for a year, but it wasn't the only story they said he used to steal money from her. He's also accused of making up a story that he needed money for drug rehab.

He had told her that her life was in danger, that his own son's life was in danger and that if she didn't give him money to pay off 'the bad people,' … the bad people would come and kill them over this drug debt.

–Lt. Brandon Post, Provo Police Department

“At one point, Derick told his grandmother that he was tired of the (drug) lifestyle and he enrolled in a treatment center,” Post said. “The grandmother would then receive calls from his alleged caseworker, who would update her on Derick’s status and tell her they needed more money to continue treatment at the treatment center.”

But Pettey was never at a treatment center and admitted Sunday to hiring strangers to make those fake calls to get money for drugs, Post said. The extortion overdrafted the grandmother’s financial accounts and wiped out most of the money she had saved for retirement.

“All told, in the course of the investigation it showed that Derick had taken approximately $90,000 from his grandmother that she now believes he had done through extortion," Post said.

Police said in affinity fraud cases like this there are often warning signs. The most common is to keep it secret from everyone else in the family.

“Talk to other family members; don’t keep the circle so small," Post advised. "When someone says ‘you can’t tell anyone or something really bad’s going to happen,’ then that’s usually a danger sign. Include trusted family members in these type of situations so they can give you the best possible advice.”

Post also advises people to call police to help check out the facts in a situation like this.

Pettey remained in the Utah County Jail Monday where he is being held on suspicion of theft by extortion and abuse of an elderly adult. His bail was set at $20,000.

Sam Penrod


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