5 On Your Side

Raleigh woman victim of magazine scheme

Posted October 3, 2011

With dozens of books and hundreds of movies already filling Jessica Barkdull's apartment shelves, what's a couple of magazines?

After all, Barkdull was certain her heart was in the right place.

"I didn't want the magazines. I just wanted to help him," she said.

But now she feels pretty certain that the clean-cut, friendly, go-getter-sounding guy named Pharaun Gilchrist got the best of her – or at least her money.

"He was very convincing. He had his whole story laid out. He had an answer for every question you had, Barkdull said.

Gilchrist was selling magazines door to door at apartments at North Carolina State University. His story: He was so close to winning a competition with a company called MTS Circulation. It would get him a free trip to Europe, and more importantly, a $50,000 grant to start his own company so that he could help his family.

And when he told Barkdull that she could cancel her order later that day and he'd still get credit for the sale, she agreed.

"When I told him I could only buy one, he said, 'Please, please, I'll do 500 pushups," Barkdull said. "He gets on the ground and starts doing pushups. He says, 'This is how bad I need it.'"

So Barkdull handed over $110. Gilchrist handed her two receipts, handwritten on old credit card slips and quickly left.

"He's like, 'See ya,' and he walks off very fast down the road," Barkdull said. " I say, 'OK, something is not right.' That's when I looked it up, and I found everything."

Along with a picture, her online search revealed post after post about MTS Circulation from others who believe they were duped ordering magazines from very convincing salespeople.

They claim it benefited everything from their education to charities to members of the military. But posters say they never received the magazines and could not find any viable contact information for MTS.

One poster specifically mentions Gilchrist. One poster said that a sellers asked for food or a drink and that when he went to get it, the salesman "helped himself to a check" from his checkbook.

"It's embarrassing," Barkdull said.

Like Barkdull, many posters say they unsuccessfully tried to cancel. Barkdull got a message saying her receipt "does not match MTS records." Now, she just hopes sharing the story of how she lost $110 will help keep it from happening to others.

"I look at it as a cheap investment in a lifelong lesson," she said.

Like many others, 5 on Your Side tried unsuccessfully to reach both MTS Circulation and Gilchrist.

Since it is illegal to sell without a permit, police at N.C. State stepped up patrols. They believe Gilchist and his group moved on.

They say the best way to not get caught up in this sort of scheme is to not open the door for unidentified people.

28 Comments

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  • 3stoogesfan Oct 6, 2:43 p.m.

    They operate in store parking lots too. I was parked on the right side of the Wal-mart store in Garner one day last year and 2 young men came up to me. One was talking while it looked like the other one was video taping. He talked really fast and tried to be a comedian at the same time. He mentioned being a college student, was working on a project and asked if I would like to send a magazine subscription to our military overseas. None of it made any sense to me. I asked to look at the subscriptions and he said he couldn't and didn't say why. Needless to say, I told him no thank you.

  • guynraleigh Oct 6, 9:15 a.m.

    Ever think to google the person name before you go all the way this guy is a con.

    Five out-of-state individuals were arrested Wednesday night in Dubuque and charged with trying to sell magazines door-to-door without a license.

    Police arrested Sean C. Aitkens, 21, of Houma, La.; Pharaun A. Gilchrist, 20, of Pasadena, Calif.; Michael R. Williams, 24, of Jackson, Tenn.; Ashley A. Kimberl, 24, of Sommerset, Ky.; and Richard Siems, 23, of Newton, Kan., on charges of peddling without a license. All five pleaded guilty Friday and were fined a total of $147.75 in addition to spending a night in jail.

  • WritNEWlaws Oct 5, 4:17 p.m.

    KARMA will get these crooks!!!

  • AtALost Oct 5, 3:53 p.m.

    "you don't know who to trust anymore."

    Never really did, it's just even worse these days. They should solicit from friends and family. If no friends and family, find another profession. Sad but that's the way it is in 2011.

  • AtALost Oct 5, 3:52 p.m.

    Actually, just don't open your door to strangers. They may want more than just a check.

  • AtALost Oct 5, 3:52 p.m.

    They say the best way to not get caught up in this sort of scheme is to not open the door for unidentified people.

    Thought this should be repeated. Just don't open your door if you can't bring yourself to say "no".

  • dwntwnboy Oct 5, 3:28 p.m.

    The same thing would have happened if she gave money to any of the various "religious" types that stop and knock on the door- give em money and you get NOTHING in return. Only this time she was promised magazines instead of salvation. Fools and their money are easily parted.

  • Sunne Oct 5, 2:39 p.m.

    jessielyn87 - You have a kind heart and thanks for sharing your experience. Don't feel bad about being duped -- it has happened to all of us whether we admit it or not. Please don't open your door to strangers again. Stay safe...

  • kellypratz Oct 5, 11:26 a.m.

    I had a similiar situation, a college student showed up at my doorstep selling books. He gave me a great story if he sold so many books he would receive a trip with his class. It was like pulling teeth just for him to tell me the price and when I told him NO he kept persisting. I know there are alot of honest students out there trying raise funds for their school but there are also the scammers, you don't know who to trust anymore.

  • getovrit Oct 5, 8:52 a.m.

    jessielyn87 thanks for sharing! I have no doubt that your story will remind other people to be more wary. I often get complacent because I want to think the best of people. This reminds me to be smart about answering the door and about giving money to businesses before checking them out.

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