By Jeff Lehr

Police believe a 76-year-old Joplin woman was cheated in December of more than $16,000 by phony home-repairs scam artist Marty W. Rickey and an accomplice.

Rickey, 33, and Jeramie Furnas, 19, are believed to have stopped at the woman’s home in the 1600 block of South Kansas Avenue on or about Dec. 10 and told her they would fix holes in the siding of her house and put a sealant on her roof.

A probable-cause affidavit filed this week in Jasper County Circuit Court states that the suspects asked for payment in advance and convinced the woman to write Rickey checks for $6,628 and $4,800 and to make out a check to Furnas for $3,900.

Rickey returned about a week later, the affidavit states, and told the victim he had encountered problems cashing her checks and that he needed her to write him another for $1,100. Police say that in actuality Rickey and Furnas cashed all four checks at First State Bank locations, bilking the woman for a total of $16,428.

A Joplin police detective inspected the house and found holes in the siding “filled with what appeared to be silicone.” A legitimate roof repairman inspected the roof for police and reported that he could find no evidence of any repair work.

Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson consequently filed charges of financial exploitation of an elderly person against Rickey and Furnas in the case on Wednesday. But authorities say the woman’s money may never be recovered.

Rickey has been in custody at the Newton County Jail since his arrest Jan. 9 in two cases involving elderly victims in that county. Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland told the Globe this week that a camper at the location on Fountain Road where Rickey and a second alleged accomplice, Donnie C. Lowery, 26, were arrested was searched, but no cash was recovered.

Rickey faces charges of first-degree burglary and second-degree elder abuse in Newton County for allegedly trying to squeeze money out of a 72-year-old man on Goldfinch Road for phony roof repairs and hitting the man with his fist when he refused to pay. Lowery, who allegedly remained outside the man’s home in a truck while the assault was taking place, was charged with first-degree burglary.

Rickey also is charged in Newton County with financial exploitation of an 85-year-old woman on South Grand Avenue in Joplin. He allegedly went to her home Dec. 30 and asked for $2,120 to fix her roof. She picked him out of a photo lineup, according to police.

Dankelson indicated that other charges could be filed in the investigation this week with respect to a similar case in Webb City.

Webb City police Chief Carl Francis indicated more than a week ago that Rickey and one of his alleged accomplices were persons of interest in a reported insurance scam and theft involving an elderly couple there and an attempted home-repair swindle of another elderly couple. Francis told the Globe more recently that charges were being sought in just the one case since the suspects were unable to get anything out of the other couple.

Joplin police also are working yet another case involving an 85-year-old woman on South Empire Avenue with whom Lowery may have had contact. A man believed to have been Lowery reportedly offered to trim trees in her yard and to do some roof repairs for her between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, Cpl. Chuck Niess of the Joplin Police Department said. She reportedly paid him with two checks for $500 each and a third check for $447, Niess said. No charges have been brought in that case as yet.

Rickey was acquitted of burglary, robbery and felonious restraint charges in Newton County by a McDonald County jury in November. The charges were related to a series of invasions of elderly victims’ homes in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas three years ago, which led to convictions and prison sentences for Rickey’s brother, James D. Rickey, 37, and John B. Gaston, 25, both of Joplin.

Marty Rickey still faced charges in Kansas when the jury found him innocent in November and was expected to be extradited back there after the trial.

The Globe learned this week that following the trial he was transferred from the Newton County Jail to Jasper County, where a charge of being a fugitive from out of state was filed in anticipation of his extradition. Before Kansas could get a governor’s warrant issued on him, he posted $2,500 bond and was released on Dec. 2.

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