Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's attorney general said Monday that 10 people have been charged in a statewide campaign, called Operation Nail It, that's aimed at helping protect elderly people from fraud and con artists.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, joined by Tammy Smith, a financial crimes prosecutor with the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, and Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, said during a news conference Monday afternoon that those arrested face more than 90 counts of conspiracy and exploitation charges stemming from crimes involving 6 to 10 victims in Wake, Wilson and Alamance counties.
"Con artists who prey on seniors have to be stopped, and this is an important step toward that goal," Cooper said.
The average age of the victims was 85 years old, and many of the cases involved scam artists pretending to be contractors who generally would approach their targets to perform a general task, such as cleaning gutters, and then later tell them about a more serious problem "discovered" during their work.
In some cases, Cooper said, the alleged con artists worked in groups, moved to different areas and sometimes traded names of victims.
"We believe that, although there are a number of victims identified, this group probably has a lot more victims we don't know about yet," he said.
Those charged are:
- Richard Collin Bullock, of Rocky Mount, on one count (Raleigh Police Department)
- Brian Davis, of Rocky Mount, on four counts (Raleigh Police Department)
- William Kenneth Ferrell, of Rocky Mount, on three counts (Cary Police Department)
- Christopher David Fountain, of Rocky Mount, on 12 charges (Burlington Police Department and Cary Police Department)
- Larry Martin House Jr., of Rocky Mount, on six counts (Cary Police Department)
- Randall Lee Joyner, of Rocky Mount, on 57 counts (Cary Police Department)
- Brandon David Peele, of Salter Path, on one count (Raleigh Police Department)
- Brandon M. Pollard, of Rocky Mount, on one count (Raleigh Police Department)
- Robert Thomas Privette, of Rocky Mount, on three charges (Cary Police Department)
- Michael Bryan Strickland, of Rocky Mount, on nine counts (Burlington Police Department)
Possible job scams can be reported to the North Carolina Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint on the department's website.
Senior citizens are usually easy targets for con artists because they tend to me more trusting, have money saved and often suffer from some kind of memory problem, Cooper said.
"These victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars," said Willoughby. "They've been robbed of their savings and their dignities, and many of them don't know they've been victimized until someone points it out to them."
Smith, who heads the Financial Crimes Initative for the Conference of District Attorneys, said Americans over age 65 are robbed of an estimated $2.9 billion a year through financial fraud and that crime against them is on the rise in North Carolina. In 2012, she said, there were 10 times more reported cases than in 2006.
Her team, which consists of four other prosecutors, assists district attorneys across the state in prosecuting such cases, which are often complex.
"This operation is a shining example of successful cooperation that has resulted in a step toward justice not only for these victims but future victims," Smith said of the joint efforts of local and state law enforcement in Operation Nail It. "Financial fraud, such as this, against our state's most vulnerable victims, the seniors, is our top priority."