Prosecutors: Man who scammed older drivers resuming past scheme

A man convicted of stealing from older drivers in Pierce County by telling them they hit his car and needed to pay for repairs is accused of resuming his scam.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Tino Sabala, 36, on Thursday with second- and third-degree theft, accusing him of taking $3,500 from an 80-year-old man. He pleaded not guilty, and his bail was set at $75,000.

According to charging papers:

Sabala accused the 80-year-old of hitting his car when he stopped at a Tacoma gas station for fuel July 14.

The car was worth $150,000, he told the man. The other driver didn’t remember hitting the car, but offered his insurance information because he feared he’d been in a wreck and would lose his license.

Sabala instead demanded the $200 he said he needed to fix the car himself. The 80-year-old gave him half of that, and they drove to the older man’s house to get $70 more.

Then Sabala told the man he was going to need $2,000 to fix the car, and drove him to a check-cashing business for the older man to cash a $2,200 check.

A teller said Sabala repeatedly called the man “Dad,” and that the 80-year-old looked lost and scared.

Then the younger man said that wasn’t enough money and drove the 80-year-old to Nordstrom, where he forced him to buy him more than $1,200 in shoes.

At the store, the 80-year-old got the attention of an employee to indicate what was happening, and Sabala fled.

Sabala pleaded guilty to second-degree theft and two counts of third-degree theft in 2012 for scamming other older drivers in a similar manner.