BOISE -- A woman identified as a scammer by various Idaho business owners is apparently known by police around the West for using similar sob stories to con people out of cash. She's known as the widow scammer in the Seattle area.
In Idaho scams, the woman gave the name Cheryl Barnes and said her late husband left a collector's truck to the owner of a business. She would then break down crying, saying her husband's illness left her broke and in need of cash to save her home. She talks about names and places as though she is a local woman.
Boise Valley Towing alerted KTVB to the probable scam on Monday, and on Tuesday, a number of other business owners came forward saying they'd experienced the same scam.
Some local business owners said seeing a little old lady sobbing as she told her stories was so believable, they gave her the money. Boise Police and other departments are investigating, and they said they had identified the woman, though no charges have been filed or arrests made on her Idaho crimes.
Washington detective arrested the woman five years ago
A Lynnwood, Washington detective helped put some of the pieces together. He arrested the woman years ago when she was spinning similar stories and collecting cash in his area. One of his victims saw KTVB's story and called him.
So I went and watched your story, saw your video, and immediately recognized her. I mean, I've seen her in person. The story is exactly the same, this preposterous scam that she pulls, Detective Doug Teachworth, Lynnwood Police Department, said.
Teachworth says the woman's real name is Shirley Sue Urich. He caught her five years ago after some digging and chasing down leads when he found a shocking number of victims in his town.
We just began putting all the cases together, and I would try to find her, and she'd be out of state and back and forth and back and forth. Eventually it was through a bulletin that was put out in some casinos, by me, that led to her capture, Teachworth said. She had her day in court, and she turned on the tears for the judge in superior court, who didn't fall for it and fortunately gave her a pretty substantial sentence within the guidelines with what he could do. That was pretty much it.
She was sentenced to nearly two-and-a-half years in prison in 2009. Now, it appears she's running the same scam again, and so far, she has not been arrested. Teachworth has been in contact with Idaho authorities and the Better Business Bureau to aid in the case.
Woman uses multiple aliases, may still be running scam
Hopefully with that information, she can get caught again and serve more time for preying on the good nature of people out there and being pretty prolific at it, Teachworth said.
Urich is described as a career criminal who has run her scam repeatedly. Stories she's used include needing to fly to see a daughter dying of cancer and being harassed by contractors for money. Supposed gifts or willed items she's offered include her late husband's old car, motorcycle, gun collection or something related to the type of business the victim was running.
She's been at this for a long time. I think that's evident not only in her criminal history but in the skill in which she's able to pull this off in a convincing fashion, the tears on demand. She's really good at it, and that was conveyed to you by the witness who called your station, Teachworth said.
Some of her other aliases have included: Jean Leslie Urich, Jeanne Marie Urich, Carol Karnes, Marilyn Karnes, Mindy Karnes, Marilyn Scott, Shirley Summer, Shirley Sue Summers, Shirley Thorne, Carol M. Watkins, Sheryl Watkins, and Shirley Williman.
If you see the woman, call Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS.