The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC


July 31, 2013

10 charged defrauding elderly

TARBORO — Ten men, including nine from Rocky Mount and three from Edgecombe County, have been arrested and charged with more than 75 counts of defrauding seniors as part of Operation Nail It. Charges include obtaining property by false pretenses, conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses and elder exploitation.

The arrests, which were announced Monday in Raleigh, ended a home repair fraud ring that targeted seniors throughout central North Carolina. The victims had an average age of 85 and were bilked out of more than $300,000.

Of the 10 men charged, police had already been seeking Robert Thomas Privette, 28, of 5821 Luther Lane and William Kenneth Ferrell, 49, of 931 Gay Road, both in Rocky Mount, since March. Each of the 10 arrested are being held on $1 million bond.

Police caught up with Privette, charged with obtaining property under false pretenses and exploiting the trust of elderly or disabled people, on Friday and charged him after questioning him at police headquarters.

Ferrell was being held on the same charges in the Edgecombe County Jail and was served with arrest warrants there before being taken to Cary Police Headquarters.

According to his arrest warrant, the charges against Ferrell stem from June 2012.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Burlington, Cary and Raleigh police began making arrests as part of Operation Nail It early Friday morning. Arrests were served and processed in Alamance, Edgecombe, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties. The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, Nash County Sheriff’s Office, and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the arrests.

Cooper said three factors make elderly residents especially vulnerable for these scams: Victims may come from a more trusting time, have savings to pay for repairs and have health problems such as dementia, making them easy marks.

Five of the 10 arrested had previous criminal records including one, Larry Martin House, who has a conviction for second degree murder and another for assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill inflicting serious injury. All 10 are being held on $1 million bond.

Operation Nail It cases will be prosecuted by local district attorney offices in partnership with the Financial Crimes Initiative. The task force plans to continue to target criminals who commit felony fraud against seniors.

 The task force work started in early 2013 when the Town of Cary Police Department noticed a trend in elderly scamming cases and alerted the SBI’s Financial Crime Unit. Further investigative work revealed the same suspects were targeting senior victims in multiple municipalities in the Triangle and Triad areas.

According to Noelle Talley, public information officer for Attorney General Roy Cooper, “The victims we know of so far are mostly from Wake and Alamance counties, although we suspect there are victims in other parts of the state.  We want to encourage anyone who thinks they or a loved one may have been the victim of this (or another) home repair fraud ring to report it by calling our Consumer Protection Division toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-566-7226.”


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