Sheriff urges citizens to beware of traveling con artists who prey on elderly
A known member of a gypsy gang of con artists was spotted in Lincoln County last week, and Sheriff David Carpenter is urging citizens to beware of the potential of being ripped off.
A member of the Irish Travelers, a band of gypsies from North Augusta, SC, was seen in Lincoln County last week – about a year after one of the gang was arrested for breaking into a Denver home.
The Irish Travelers travel into an area and use high-pressure sales tactics to rip people off in everything from roof repairs and house painting to blacktop sealing and driveway repairs.
Many of the victims are elderly.
The con artists usually offer to make home repairs at discount prices and get paid up front.
Often, they start a job and then leave town before the work is completed.
In addition to the repair scams, they have also have been known to break into homes as one of them did in late November 2010 to a Denver residence.
In that case, two men pulled up to a Grassy Creek home, and one of them rang the doorbell. When no one answered promptly, he broke into the garage and stole a Weedeater. Before the- thieves left, however, someone inside the home noticed them and got into a scuffle with the thieves as they tried to leave.
Cops later arrested Johnny “Cornbread” Anthony Mack, a member of the Irish Travelers, and charged him with felony breaking and entering. He was convicted in August 2011 and given 24 months probation and suspended sentence.
He was arrested last week in Edgefield SC and was being held in jail on a Georgia charge of probation violation.
Back in 2007, eight residents of western Lincoln County were ripped off by the gypsy gang for faulty paving work that ranged in price from $2,000 to $8,000.
Sheriff Carpenter said the reason the elderly have become prime targets is:
• They are usually at home alone during the day;
• They traditionally have larger amounts of cash in the bank or in their homes and;
• They often do not report crimes against them for fear of being considered senile.
“Nationwide, statistics show that 65 percent of all crimes perpetrated by transient criminals involve victims 60 years of age or older,” the sheriff stated in a news release.
The Sheriff’s Office also outlined a common scheme:
In the burglary scam, two people will come to the door of an elderly victim and tell them they are there to measure the floor for carpet that would lower their energy bill. As the suspect enters the residence he is joined by a second suspect carrying a roll of flooring material. Once inside the residence one suspect will hold one end of the floor covering and ask the victim to hold the other end. While that is happening the second suspect is searching to home for money or valuables. They quickly leave before the resident can determine they have been a victim of theft.
Sheriff Carpenter urges residents to be vigilant about anyone they allow onto their property and especially into their homes.
“Ask questions and have persons to remain outside your home and,as in any case, call 911 immediately to report anything that you are not comfortable with,” he stated.
Most “Irish Travelers” drive utility trucks with South Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia license plates.