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Two Elderly Women Arrested in Deadly Scam

Los Angeles police have arrested two elderly women on mail fraud charges for allegedly luring two homeless men into a life-insurance scam. The men turned up dead in still- unresolved hit and run cases; the women were $2.2 million richer after collecting on their life insurance policies.

Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, is a Hungarian immigrant from Hollywood; Helen Golay, 75, is a grandmother who owns a triplex in Santa Monica. Neither have criminal records, but now police suspect the women may have been directly involved with the mens' deaths.

LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon says Rutterschmidt and Golay befriended the two homeless men, set them up in apartments and persuaded them to sign life insurance policies, with the two women as sole beneficiaries. "Once they had that signature," Vernon says, "they would go to a stationery store and have a rubber stamp madeto complete 19 different life insurance policies."

FBI Special Agent Herb Brown says the policies on 50-year-old Kenneth McDavid and 73-year-old Paul Vados were worth more than two million dollars.P>

In 1999, Vados was found dead in an alley in Hollywood. Then, last June, Mc David died under similar circumstances, and police got suspicious. The women remain in federal custody, charged only with mail fraud. But Los Angeles police are busy trying to build a murder case.

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As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.