Gillette Men Accused In Scheme To Scam Woman, 87, Out Of More Than $300,000

Court documents outline an alleged scam by a pair of Gillette men to cheat an 87-year-old woman out of more than $300,000, including attempting to get a power of attorney over her.

CM
Clair McFarland

August 28, 20239 min read

First Interstate Bank in downtown Gillette. An 87-year-old woman was allegedly being scammed by a pair of men until bank employees noticed unusual activity with her accounts.
First Interstate Bank in downtown Gillette. An 87-year-old woman was allegedly being scammed by a pair of men until bank employees noticed unusual activity with her accounts. (Google)

At first it seemed like some concerned men were fixing an older Gillette woman’s truck, then bringing her cleaning supplies and spending time with her. 

They were actually siphoning the woman’s money out of her bank account and angling to get power of attorney over her, authorities say. 

Donald Alick Cross, 74, faces one count of conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. His case has been elevated from lower-court level to felony-level Campbell County District Court. He’s scheduled to give his plea Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Cross’s co-defendant Shawn Carl John, 37, pleaded guilty this month to theft conspiracy, marijuana possession and meth possession. The prosecutor agreed to drop a fourth charge of elder abuse. 

John has not yet been sentenced, his court file indicates. 

This Pacing

The case started Jan. 6 when Gillette Police Department Officer Vavi Domingo went to a First Interstate Bank branch in Gillette in response to a bank manager’s suspicion that a man was cheating an 87-year-old woman out of thousands of dollars of her own money. 

Bobbie Engstrom, the retail manager at the bank, already was concerned over the woman’s accounts because they’d been showing suspicious activity and strange men called often to ask about the accounts. 

Just as that suspicion peaked, a man came into the bank with the older woman and asked the woman to write and cash a $10,000 check, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed in the case. The man would let the woman have $5,000, he announced, while spending the other $5,000 on cleaning supplies. 

Engstrom asked to speak to the woman in private. During their visit, the man paced outside. 

Engstrom looked over the accounts more and learned the woman had enrolled two days earlier in online banking. 

The woman said no, she didn’t do any kind of online banking — she didn’t even use a debit card. 

Engstrom dug deeper and found it appeared the woman had written five large checks the month prior, including one for $20,000, one for $30,000 and two for $40,000. There was an attempt to cash another, for $140,000, but the woman’s funds were insufficient and the check didn’t go through. 

Engstrom nudged the bank’s security team to give police surveillance footage of the man who was pacing outside. 

The man interrupted Engstrom’s private meeting with the woman to announce he was leaving. Authorities later identified the man as Shawn Carl John, the affidavit says. 

The woman’s online banking account was registered to the email address Shawnjohn0686@gmail.com, according to the document. 

Here They Come

The woman lives alone in Gillette with no husband or children in her life, the affidavit says. 

While shopping in December 2022, the woman told police she came across men who introduced themselves as “Don” and “Donnie,” whom she later knew as Shawn Carl John and Donnie Mitchell. 

John and Mitchell told the woman they could fix up the fenders on her old Toyota pickup. She agreed and the men followed her home after she shopped. 

They returned more than five times over the next several days, ostensibly to work on her fenders, but they didn’t finish the job, the affidavit says. 

Also that winter, John and a man he introduced as his brother “Trey” would come inside and spend time with the woman. They’d drop off groceries and cleaning supplies. 

An Offer

John and “Trey” asked her to invest in their oil well service called GOG Inc., says the affidavit. 

The woman’s $140,000 check was written for that purpose, the document says. The woman didn’t have any more details on what she was investing in or what her returns might be. 

One time, John took the woman to a restaurant where she met Donny Cross, the affidavit says. 

On Jan. 6, John arrived at the woman’s house, took her to the grocery store and dropped her off at the bank. He left “unexpectedly” when Engstrom cornered the woman to raise concerns about her accounts. 

That very morning, the woman said, John and “Trey” had announced they were going to move in with her and take care of her needs, though she said she didn’t want anyone’s help, the affidavit says. 

Police Interview At The Bar

On Jan. 10, a worker at the Horse Palace contacted Gillette police to say he or she saw John there, gambling. 

The affidavit says that Gillette Police Department Officer Dan Stroup, who was investigating the case, interviewed John at the Horse Palace after John refused to go to the police department. But on the way to the establishment Stroup learned that John had an arrest warrant out of Colorado. 

Stroup met John at the bar and read him his Miranda rights. 

John told Stroup he’d been working on the woman’s car, had shoveled her driveway and had given her a ride to the bank. She paid him about $500 for his services, he said. 

John said he hadn’t received any checks from the woman. John did admit to knowing Donny Cross, the affidavit says, because Cross is “prominent in the oil service industry in Gillette,” says the affidavit. 

John said he made money doing odd jobs and helping people out. 

He “could not remember” his phone number or address, the affidavit relates.

“Shawn then refused to answer any questions,” says the document. 

Just Getting Some Power Of Attorney

Police arrested John that morning for his extraditable Colorado warrant. They searched him and seized his phone and car key fob, then followed the fob’s panic button to a 2017 Ford pickup in the south lot of the hotel. 

Just as Stroup pulled up to the truck, a while male named Austin Coy walked away from the vehicle, the affidavit claims. 

Coy admitted he’d been at the place with John. 

Gillette Police Department Detective Brian Roesner arrived and found, in plain view, marijuana in the truck’s center console. The truck stank of marijuana, the affidavit claims, so police searched it. They found a blue leather bag containing the woman’s bank statement and two checks written to Donny Cross: one for $60,000 and another for $20,000, plus three copies of an unsigned power of attorney. 

The power of attorney document proposed to transfer all the woman’s assets to John, the affidavit alleges. 

Stroup later found another internet transfer from the woman’s account, allegedly for $120,000.

A Partnership

Cross came to the Gillette Police Department for his interview Jan. 17, accompanied by his attorney. 

Cross told Stroup that John is a “broker” who brings to Cross people who want to invest in oil wells, according to the affidavit. Cross assigns ownership to them in exchange for cash. 

Cross said he’s been doing that for at least 20 years, the affidavit says. 

As for the older woman, Cross said John approached him to say he had a woman interested in investing in a well. The woman wrote several checks to Cross, and the checks were cashed. Cross gave the cash to John and what John did from there, Cross didn’t know, he told police. 

Cross assigned a percentage of well ownership to the woman, he added. Some of the checks the woman wrote him had bounced. 

This Worthless Well

The woman won’t own any percentage in the oil well until her $120,000 check clears, Cross allegedly said. Cross told Stroup the woman agreed to invest in the well and she appeared to be coherent and lucid when they met in a restaurant to discuss it. 

Cross also said the well is valued at $2.2 million, the affidavit says. 

He was trying to assign the woman a share worth $200,000, he added. 

Stroup arranged for KR Ventures in Casper, a well evaluating company, to judge the value of the well. 

The company deemed the well worthless “under any reasonable interpretation.” 

The Spending

So Stroup filed for a search warrant on two of Cross’s bank accounts. 

He found $109,424.53 deposited in one account in December, launching the account up from its beginning balance of $95.86, the affidavit says. 

Two of the new deposits totaled $55,000 from the woman, allegedly. But Cross pulled money from those deposits when he put the money in the bank, says the affidavit. Had he deposited all the woman wrote to his account, it would reportedly have totaled $70,000.

Cross’s expenditures from that account were minimal before the woman’s deposits hit, the affidavit alleges, but after her money started flowing in, he drained most of the money out of that account, paying toward his company, another bank account and himself. 

Stroup found payouts to ASI LLC, a company registered in Wyoming. But Stroup couldn’t reach Raymond J. Zwolenski, the registered agent’s reported name. 

Cross’s other account under GOG Inc. showed a beginning balance Dec. 1 of $87.80, but it shot to $140,194.49 that month, including from a $140,000 check by the older woman, the affidavit claims. But then someone withdrew nearly all of that. 

“Fortunately, due to suspicious activity on this account, money had been moved from (the woman’s) account and this $140,000 check was deemed to be insufficient,” says the document. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter