Arrested at Walnut Creek church, investigations into other possible victims
The Contra Costa District Attorney has filed three felony counts of grand theft by fraud and one felony count of Elder Financial Abuse against Ward Steven Caldwell, also known as Bruce Harmon, also known as Bruce Goodrich, age 55. Caldwell is also charged with penalty enhancements for losses exceeding $150,000 and an aggravated white collar enhancement for committing financial crimes on two or more people with total losses over $100,000. Additional charges are pending after several more victims were discovered.
In September 2015, Caldwell befriended the first victim, a widowed hairdresser, by portraying himself as a successful investor and promising to double her money. Caldwell told her that he had a business partner named Junior in Las Vegas who invested in strip joints, casinos and TV commercials. Over a three-month period in 2016, the victim gave Caldwell a total of $139,500.
The second victim met Caldwell at a car wash in Walnut Creek. Caldwell struck up a conversation about the car she was driving and offered to help her sell her first car. Caldwell convinced her to invest $30,000 in a business deal where investors would buy a Bugatti Chiron and sell it for a large profit.
The third victim is a 90-year-old woman from Lafayette. She met Caldwell at the Grace Presbyterian Church in Walnut Creek. The victim thought Caldwell was an honest person because she read in the church newsletter that Caldwell had donated $150,000 to the church. In reality, Caldwell had given the pastor two checks totaling $150,000 and told him to hold the checks until Caldwell told him that he had received some settlement money that would make the checks good. The elderly victim gave Caldwell a total of $171,200.
DA Investigators and accountants found that Caldwell had used the investment money for personal expenses and none of it went to any investments. They also found two potential victims in Contra Costa, Alameda County and one victim in Butte County. Those cases are under investigation.
Defendant was arrested last Sunday at the Grace Presbyterian Church and is being held in custody on a $505,000 bail. The District Attorney’s office believes there may be other victims at the church and defendant may have befriended other elders living at assisted living facilities.
If you know of other victims, or assisted-living facilities that Caldwell may have visited, please contact DA Inspector Al Cofer at 925-957-2200.