DA presses charges against landscape scammer

John Herren stands in front of his home on El Dorado Drive where he had a landscaper come a cut trees in the front, side and backyard of his property in early April. He mistakenly paid for the service before the landscaper came and cleared away all the cu

Nearly one month after the District Attorney launched an investigation the man that roams around South County, charming seniors into giving him money for jobs he never completes, the ialleged “landscape scammer” was arrested July 21 in Gilroy for 13 counts of petty theft and eight counts of misdemeanor elder fraud. 

Michael Oliveira, 43 of Gilroy, was arrested on Eighth and Rosanna Streets Saturday morning after the District Attorney issued a warrant for his arrest on June 20, according to Gilroy Police Sargeant Chad Gallacinao. GPD recognized Oliveira walking down the street near his home, arrested him, and transported him to the Santa Clara County Jail on a $25,000 bail. 

The District Attorney’s charges come two months after the Dispatch published an April 24 story about a man who goes door-to-door under the guise of a charming landscaper, convincing victims (often senior citizens) to pay him upfront for services he never completes. Since that story, 12 more people from Gilroy and Morgan Hill contacted the Dispatch with strikingly similar stories of allegedly being scammed by a man named Michael Oliveira.

But on May 7, goaded by an outpouring of reports from scamming victims in response to the Dispatch story, Gallacinao said police had opened up an investigation and encouraged victims to contact, or re-contact police with any information they have on the landscape scammer. 

Oliveira’s alleged victims described Oliveira as a smooth talker, who looked them in the eye, smiled, and shook their hands as he took their cash. Even those who said they are normally hesitant to hire a door-to-door solicitor said Oliveira won them over with his laid-back air and sense of humor.

On June 4, Oliveira was arrested in Gilroy on warrants unrelated to his alleged scamming activity – selling stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, and various vehicle code violations – and some victims expressed relief that he went to jail for something, although one man noted that justice won’t be truly served until Oliveira is locked behind bars for all his crimes against seniors.  

Oliveira’s sentence could be pretty steep. Pending Oliveira’s criminal court proceedings, he could face up to 14 years is jail –  eight years for the elder fraud chrages and six years for petty theft charges, according to Janet Berry, the deputy district attorney handling Oliveira’s prosecution. 

“People take an extremely dim view of any kind of elder fraud, and I hope the judge does too,” Berry said.

Berry processed reports of eight victims from Gilroy, and 10 from Morgan Hill. 

“It’s serious business to steal from an elder for crying out loud,” Berry said. “The fact that so many of his victims were seniors – most of these folks are all in their eighties – it was a pretty easy call to make,” she said. 

Oliveira was released after posting bail and is scheduled to appear in Santa Clara County Court on Sept. 14 for his arraignment. 

“I hope people feel like we heard them,” Berry said, referring to the victims in Gilroy and Morgan Hill who have been scammed. “I hope they feel like we heard and responded.”

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