The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 16, 2012

Joplin couple victimized by phony home repair claim

JOPLIN, Mo. — A 69-year-old resident of a neighborhood near downtown Joplin was gone for a few hours a week ago today and had just arrived back home when he knocked on her door.

The young man with the spiked hair claimed to be part of a crew that completed some work on her roof while she was gone.

She asked: What work? She wasn’t aware that she or her husband, who was out of town just then, had arranged for anything to be done, she told him.

Well, this was just a follow-up to a job the crew members had done before, he said. They had stopped by to check it out, and it turned out the roof needed some resealing and additional work around the chimney, and they had gone ahead with the work, he said.

She wanted to know when the crew had worked on the house previously. She and her husband have lived there 12 years, and she could not recall any work of that type being done.

The first time was about 15 years ago, the man said. This was just a routine follow-up by Tri-State Paving and Sealcoating. But the workers had to complete $9,000 worth of repairs, and they needed to be paid, he told her.

The figure was flabbergasting. She couldn’t pay him $9,000, she said. Not for work she wasn’t sure the couple had even ordered.

He might be able to cut her a price break, but the crew was going to have to be paid now, he said. He eventually agreed to settle for $6,200, and she wrote him a check. When he noticed that it was on an account with a bank in another county, he told her he couldn’t accept that. It had to be a check on a local bank because he needed to cash it right away to pay off the supplier of the materials the crew had used on the roof.

Reluctantly, she wrote him a $6,000 check on a Joplin bank, and he left. Minutes later, another man claiming to be with Tri-State Paving and Sealcoating called her with questions about the check she had written.

It wasn’t until the next day, in a telephone conversation with her husband, that she realized she had been taken. There had not been any work done on their roof. It had just been a scam.

“It’s very embarrassing,” the woman told the Globe in an interview Tuesday.

Her husband explained that his wife has a medical condition that causes some short-term memory problems that may have played a role in what happened. There also was an element of intimidation involved, she acknowledged.

The couple found out from their bank that the check was cashed in less than an hour. The older man who called her may have been making sure she had not gotten wise to the fraud and contacted police before someone was sent into the bank to cash the check.

The couple said their only hope of seeing those who ripped them off caught and punished may be some surveillance footage that the bank has. Joplin police have obtained that footage and are working the case.

Blank check

A JOPLIN WOMAN paid a phony home repair scam artist with a check leaving the payee slot blank. The check was cashed by a man within an hour of the scam.

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