Police: Suspect used sweet talk to fleece lonely women, business ‘customers’
BY FRANK MAIN AND JENNIFER JOHNSON Staff Reporters May 17, 2013 9:24PM
At right, David Ray Wooten established a fictitious company in Park Ridge, a statement from Park Ridge police said. | Courtesy~ABC7 Chicago
Updated: June 20, 2013 4:27PM
At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, David Ray Wooten has been dubbed Lothario the Large.
In past decades, Wooten was a pro at seducing lonely elderly women out of their savings and valuables.
But most recently, he ran a phony business in northwest suburban Park Ridge, police say.
Wooten, 63, allegedly bilked his “customers” out of three cars, works of art and sports memorabilia including a 1907 Chicago Cubs World Series poster and an autographed Dan Marino football, police say. He may have as many as 100 victims in the Midwest alone, authorities say.
Wooten worked out of an office that he rented for just 21 days before he vanished, police said.
“He worked fast,” said Park Ridge Detective Steve Stopka.
Wooten was arrested in March on a warrant for a 2007 burglary in Des Plaines. Then on May 1, he was charged with theft in connection with five victims in the Park Ridge case, Stopka said. He is being held in the Cook County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Wooten doesn’t have the face of a Romeo, but he is a sweet talker, authorities say. Over the years, he has seduced lonely elderly women with stories about himself that were tough to check out.
Once he said he was in the Central Intelligence Agency. Other times, he posed as an investment strategist.
One of his victims was Margie McCurry, 82, of Des Plaines, who met Wooten after her husband died in late 2006, police say. Wooten allegedly claimed he was a New York City firefighter injured in the 9/11 attacks. He even had firefighter license plates on his truck.
“I’m no dummy,” said McCurry, a retired Cook County sheriff’s deputy. “I checked him out.”
Wooten pestered McCurry for a job at her antique store, and she hired him to work a few hours a day.
Then one day in 2007, he allegedly burglarized her home. He stole antiques, jewelry, McCurry’s badge, a gun, and a lockbox containing cash, police said.
“Because of him, I lost my life savings,” McCurry said.
After Wooten vanished, McCurry put her law enforcement training to work. She posted an online ad seeking help looking for him. She learned he was in Rockwell County, Texas.
McCurry said she heard from a woman whose husband was suspicious of Wooten. At the time, Wooten was using the name of McCurry’s late husband — Jack Ozee — and flashing a badge saying he was a retired Chicago cop.
Police in Texas arrested Wooten on a warrant for the burglary of McCurry’s home. He was carrying fake IDs when he was nabbed in 2007, police said. He served 11 months in prison in Texas for fraud and possession of fake identification in the Rockwell County case, records show. But he still faces a charge here in connection with the burglary involving McCurry’s home.
Wooten’s been a predator for decades — with other prison sentences in 1991 in Texas and 1994 in New York. He also was sentenced to prison in federal court in Chicago in 2004. In late 2009, the judge in Chicago ordered him returned to prison to serve a 14-month sentence for violating probation. His son sent a letter to the judge saying Wooten was mentally unstable. “Please help my father because he does not know what he does,” the letter said.
Wooten’s latest alleged crimes involved a fake business, Poulakos Liquidators, that he ran out of the Park Ridge Plaza office building at 350 S. Northwest Highway, police said. Herb Joseph said he met Wooten — whom he knew as “Jim” — while working as a veterans’ liaison for state Sen. Dan Kotowski in the same building.
“I had this folding mountain bike I didn’t want, and he said, ‘Give it to me. I’ll sell it for you.’ He said I’d get $300 for it.”
The mistake, the 78-year-old Elk Grove Village resident said, was giving Wooten the bicycle before he was paid any money.
“It was too good to be true because the next thing I knew, he was gone,” Joseph said.