Sam Yonko, one of six family members charged with organized crime activity for working together to pull off the scam

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — A Spring Branch man has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity to charges of involvement in a “wobble wheel” scam, the Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Tuesday.

“These scammers prey on innocent drivers by acting like Good Samaritans to take advantage of people’s good nature,” Ogg said. “To add to the deception, they even used their own families and children to support the lie.”

Sam Yonko, 34, was one of six family members charged with involvement in organized criminal activity because they worked together to pull off the scam.

The family operated on Westheimer Road from 610 West Loop to Highway 6, Richmond Avenue within 610 Loop, and S. Main Street near Braeswood Boulevard.

“They pulled up next to motorists who honked their horns or yelled that their front wheel was loose,” said Assistant District Attorney Sheila Hansel, who was prosecuting the case. “When the victim went off the road, family members convinced them that the wheel could be repaired with a part they happened to have on them.

After “fixing” the bike, scammers then demanded a refund for the part and even drove victims to a bank or demanded payment in gift cards.

Two dozen victims identified Yonko in photo lineups as the man who betrayed them. Since his release on bail, one of his five co-defendants has been arrested but has not appeared in court.

Three other people are yet to be arrested and the sixth died of an overdose in 2020.

By pleading guilty to participating in organized criminal activity, a third-degree felony, Yonko must serve at least half the time before he is eligible for parole.

“Yonko and these others are prolific scammers who prey on people in the Houston area,” said Hansel of the Consumer Fraud Division. “We have worked hard to prove this series of thefts is a crime. Texas Involvement in Organized Criminal Activity law allows us to prosecute scammers in proportion to the number of victims they leave behind.”

The case was investigated by the Houston Police Department’s Swindle Squad.

Paul Yonko is wanted by the police. Anyone with information as to his whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS.

SEE ALSO: Man wanted for stealing hundreds of dollars from man at fake auto repair shop in Harris County

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Sam Yonko, one of six family members charged with organized crime activity for working together to pull off the scam

Dais Johnston

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