2006_10_scammer.jpgIin yet another story of a con artist duping an elderly person, an 81 year old astronomer was bilked by a 31 year old scammer out of over $200,000. The fact that Joseph Gossner is a prominent city philanthropist lands him on the cover of the Daily News - he was taken in by Janet Costello, who told him she suffered from breast cancer and needed money to pay the bills, but actually used the money to buy a Hummer among other things.

Gossner, who lives in a Sutton Place townhouse, sits on the Metropolitan Opera's board of directors, and also donates to the New York Presbyterian Hospital, gave her many checks met Costello while "posing as a visiting nurse doing community outreach." The old "visiting nurse" rountine! It gets even more depressing:

"I'm a widower, what could you do?" said Gossner, who wore dress slacks and a tie as he spoke outside the multimillion-dollar home. "After my wife died, I was alone."

Even though his late wife, Simone, died nearly five years ago, Gossner still buys two tickets to every opera and Philharmonic performance he attends.

"I sit with an empty seat next to me," he said....

...He also took her out to dinner and the opera - although he said she showed up in a tacky outfit more suited to a "rock concert at Jones Beach" than the Met.

"It was company, in a way," he said. "It was bad company as it turned out."

And this is a scam story we know about! Old men (and women) out there, if a cute young thing is suddenly interested in you - and the money you can give him/her - it's okay to be suspicious. Do you really want to have to tell the Daily News that you were really lonely and fooled by a busted looking grifter? (Earlier this month, a young woman was charged with taking the money of two old men in Queens.)

Anyway, Gossner's niece noticed the huge payments to Costello when she was looking at his finances, and then the matter ended up in the hands of the Manhattan DA's office. Costello was indicted on grand larceny charges. The best quote is from 87 year old Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, "You know how these old guys are - they're sympathetic to people." But not you, Morgy!