Inmate scams grieving Bartholomew Co. women

James Warner
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Grieving, vulnerable victims were targeted by an inmate in Columbus, costing them a lot of money.

Jails like the one in Bartholomew County have activities to keep prisoners busy, but police say inmate James Warner had his own project, starting with the obituary section in the morning paper.

"While he was incarcerated, he sent letters addressed to some recent widows," said Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department Det. Kevin Abner.

He sent condolences to the women, sounding heartfelt, police say. According to Abner, he then started "requesting money from those individuals, claiming to know their recently deceased husbands."

In one case, police say Warner, claimed one dead man owed him money from a business deal. In another, he said they were friends and now he needed their help.

"He attempted to solicit their sympathy. He made it clear he was incarcerated and in need of money," Abner said.

All inmate letters are stamped "sent from Bartholomew County Jail." Two letters went to the same Columbus church to forward to two widows. The church stamped them "suspicious" and called the sheriff.

The victims could not ID Warner's photo and said he had no ties to their husbands. Police charged Warner with fraud by an inmate.

Criminals sometimes check obituaries for times of services then break into the dead person's home while everyone's away. But Warner's crime takes all that to a new level.

"I don't feel it's right at all," said Cindy Bauer of Columbus.

"If you have a parent or an aunt in that situation, I think you just have to tell them to be careful," said Susan Ketchum. "It's a good thing to talk it over with the rest of your family before you do anything."