TV outs suspect wanted in scam

COUPEVILLE – An alleged con man’s luck may have finally run out.

Island County investigators have been hunting for James A. McDowell, 59, for more than a year. They believe he swindled about $135,000 from a woman after weaving an elaborate story and gaining access to her bank account.

McDowell was wanted on a $1 million arrest warrant, according to Island County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Smith.

He was arrested Sunday at a motel about 30 miles outside San Diego after police there received tips from people who had seen him featured on television’s “America’s Most Wanted” the night before.

A viewer told police McDowell was a regular customer at a casino nearby. Another tip led police to the man’s motel, where he was in possession of thousands of dollars in cash and coins, according to police Lt. Bill Rowland with the Carlsbad Police Department in California.

McDowell had been arrested in December 2004 for investigation of forgery, theft and burglary. Police say he forged checks he took from a woman whose help he enlisted.

He told the woman he had cancer. He convinced her to open a joint checking account, telling her he would need her help with his finances when he became to ill to care for himself, according to police.

About a month later, McDowell disappeared. The woman, concerned for his safety, reported him missing.

Two days later, she learned about the forged checks and the money missing from her account, according to police.

McDowell was arrested, then disappeared after he was released from jail, Smith said.

Detectives are investigating other complaints against McDowell. Some of the victims have filed civil lawsuits against him to recoup money they’ve lost, Smith said.

McDowell also faces fraud charges in California after reportedly scamming a coin shop out of $13,500, Rowland said.

McDowell is expected to be to brought to Island County from California. He likely will face numerous felony charges.

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