Boise Police Department
News Release

Michael F. Masterson
Chief of Police


Contact: Lynn Hightower
Communications Director
570-6180

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

01-15-09 Officers Seek Additional Victims in Apparent Con Case

01-15-09 Officers Seek Additional Victims in Apparent Con Case

    Boise, Jan, 15, 2009 - Boise Police detectives have identified a person of interest in a con-turned-theft case. An elderly Boise woman was recently victimized out of more than $75,000.

    Officers believe there may be more victims. Detectives are asking citizens to call police if they had business dealings with this person, or if they know of more potential victims.

    "We think this guy targets seniors, gains their trust, then swindles them," said Det. Brad Thorne of the Boise Police FInancial and Property Crimes Unit. 

    "We want to find him and find out if he victimized others while he was in Boise last year. We also need to make people aware that there are people who will victimize the most vulnerable of our citizens. We need to educate ourselves, and our loved ones so con artists can't find easy prey." said Det. Thorne.

    Person of Interest: James W. Schmidt, 49, most recent address is Spokane, WA. 

    Description: white male, 6' 6", 210 lbs, blonde hair, blue eyes, known to go with or without eye glasses. Schmidt has a $500,000 arrest warrant for 1st degree Theft out of Washington State issued last month, December, 2008.

    At this time, Boise Police have not filed charges against Schmidt, but he is considered to be a strong person of interest in this crime. This investigation is continuing.

    2nd Person of Interest: Laurel Gottsberger .

    Gottsberger is known to travel with Schmidt. The pair may represent themselves as husband and wife.

    Time Frame, Whereabouts: Schmidt was believed to be in the Boise area between August and December, 2008, until just before Christmas. He may also have spent some of that time in the Twin Falls area. 

    Detectives know Schmidt spent at least some of his time in Boise staying at a hotel near I-84 and Cole Rd., off Overland.

    At this time, detectives have evidence Schmidt has left Idaho. Boise Police are working with the US Marshall's Office to try and locate Schmidt.

   What Happened: In late December, family members of the elderly woman reported to Boise Police that she may be the victim of theft or forgery. The woman, in her 80's tells officers she met a man believed to be Schmidt, last August when he knocked on her door selling air cleaners. The man befriended the woman and eventually gained her confidence.

    In late December, the woman's family noticed more than $60,000 of the woman's personal checks cashed by Schmidt. They found another $15,000 in credit card debt used by Schmidt.

    Similar Cases: Detectives with the Boise Police Financial Crimes Unit have found Schmidt is suspected in a series of similar crimes, with several victims identified by police in Washington and Oregon. 

    MO: According to investigators, Schmidt targets the elderly by selling his products, vacuums and air cleaners, door to door in neighborhoods known to have a significant senior population. Detectives believe he will try to start relationships with seniors who seem vulnerable, gain their confidence, possibly by offering them rides or other assistance, then gains access to and is able to manipulate their finances.

    Contact: Anyone who may have had contact or business dealings with Schmidt while he was in Boise, or anyone who may know of a potential victim, is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS.

    Here's what Boise Police and Boise City Prosecutors would like citizens to be aware of regarding door to door solicitations:

  • Boise City license requirements are for everyone, even charities. (Charities are just exempt from paying for the license fee).
  • A Boise City solicitors license should have the official Boise City logo along with a picture of the solicitor.
  • The solicitor is required to clearly display the official city license.
  • Citizens should ask to see the license. If the solicitor cannot display one, citizens are urged to call police.
  • Homeowners should be aware some door to do people will use a scam to get inside their homes such, as pretending to do a survey or ask questions about products in their home, and then once inside try to steal something.
  • Homeowners have the right to tell people they are not interested at any time. Homeowners can put up a no solicitation sign, or they can simply not answer the door.
  • Homeowners should not be pressured into buying something and they have every right to ask a person to leave. If a person refuses to leave, homeowners can and should call police.
  • If a person in their neighborhood is acting suspicious to please report it to police.