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Good Samaritan takes action after seeing attack on 74-year-old cancer patient

By Peter D’Oench

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    MIAMI (WFOR) — A good Samaritan is speaking out after taking action when a 74-year-old cancer patient was being attacked this past weekend in Miami Beach.

He is speaking to CBS4 on the same day that the F.B.I. Is offering advice and warnings for the elderly on this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Modesto Vellon spoke to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench on Tuesday outside his Hialeah home and said he had to help out after seeing a vicious attack on the elderly woman around 1 p.m. on Sunday by the Lincoln Road Beachwalk.

“I saw this guy punching this woman and he punched her 3 times and she fell backward. He was trying to take the bag from her saying that’s my bag. And she was saying why are you taking my bag. The first thing that came to mind was I needed to help that person. I did not know the lady but I wanted to help her from getting beaten up,” Vellon said.

Vellon says he alerted a city employee and police were called. They say they arrested 46-year-old Eric Gospodarek, who they say is 6’2” and 190 pounds.

Miami Beach Police spokesman Officer Ernesto Rodriguez says “The subject pushed her causing her to fall into the bushes. Rodriguez said he was “saddened that this took place” but satisfied that an arrest had been made.

Gospodarek has been charged with attempted strong-arm robbery and battery on a person older than 65 and giving police a false name.

“In this case, someone sprang into action and helped this woman,” he said. “We have to remember that is essential which is to provide that aid to that person who is in danger and also call police. That is most important.”

Vellon said he would take action again. “If I see this happening again to a man or woman like this I would do it again.”

Rodriguez says fortunately the 74-year-old victim was not seriously injured.

Records show Gospodarek was also arrested on April 21st after a 66-year-old man claimed that Gospodarek punched him in the face after he told Gospodarek he was not allowed to ride his bicycle on Lincoln Road. The victim said he used pepper spray on Gospodarek after fearing for his safety.

Coincidentally, Vellon is speaking out on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in which Jay Bernardo, the Assistant Special Agent in charge of the F.B.I. in Miami had some advice and warnings for elderly people in the state of Florida, which has the 2nd highest number of cases behind California.

He said most are victimized through online scams.

“We are seeing the number one money loss is in companion or romance schemes which is individuals using online scams to try to become romantically involved with a victim to gain their confidence and at some point request financial information or access to bank accounts to defraud the elderly,” said Bernardo.

“The second area is tech fraud and the unsolicited messages on computers where sometimes they say you have a virus and call this number which they use to victimize people,” said Bernardo.

“We want to let caregivers and their loved ones know that they must keep in contact with family members who are elderly and have that conversation about what frauds are and to be on the lookout for them. Often people who are lonely in many cases fall victim to this. Hang up the phone if someone calls you. Legitimate companies do not call unsolicited to your phone.”

He urges victims to come forward. There is a special hotline: 1-800-Call FBI.

Bernardo says there is a disturbing pattern of repeat offenders victimizing the elderly.

“We have found criminals have lists of individuals where they pass and sell those lists around,” he said.

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