'Wobbly wheel' scam targets women and elderly as victims

Paul Yonko (left) and Nick Stanley (right)

HOUSTON – A 75-year-old man went to get gas at a Chevron on Westheimer on Nov. 9.

He would later fall victim to the "wobbly wheel scam," standing at an ATM, withdrawing large amounts cash with two younger and larger men nearby, urging him to take out more.

Those men would immediately steal the money from his hands and later leave the scene, according to an indictment by the Harris County Grand Jury.

It started when the victim was pumping gas, and a man later identified as 34-year-old Paul Yonko approached the man, posed as a mechanic, and told him that his car's wheel "was about to come off." The man offered to repair it for free, but wanted to be reimbursed for the parts used, according to documents. 

The victim eventually agreed and followed Yonko to a nearby deserted parking lot and waited for him to finish the alleged repairs. 

The man then demanded that he be reimbursed for his work and followed the victim to his bank, according to documents. Yonko and a second man, 27-year-old Nick Stanley, stood within inches of the victim while he withdrew money. 

The victim saw the money come out of the machine, quickly looked up to get his card and by the time he looked back down the money was gone, according to court documents.

Yonko then told him that the money went back into the machine so he needed to withdraw more. The victim told investigators that he began to sense the suspects getting more demanding, so he withdrew even more money to avoid any conflict, according to court documents. 

After the first two transactions, Yonko demanded the victim make a third withdrawl for "extra parts," according to court documents. The two men then told the victim they would get a receipt from their vehicle, but drove away.

Police reviewed surveillance video from the gas station and immediately recognized Yonko and Stanley, court documents said. 

A certified mechanic examined the victim's car and noted that no repairs were actually made, according to court documents.