Local News

Police Believe Scam Artist At Work In Durham

Posted September 6, 2001

— We are taught to help those in need. But sometimes, people take advantage of a kind heart.

Police in Durham say woman is preying on people's compassion. She captures their kindness, and then takes their cash.

"I've had several people who've been victimized by her say she's very sweet. They feel like she's very honest," Officer Mark Sherman of the Durham Police Department said.

Wednesday night, Durham police issued an arrest warrant for Melissa Lassiter. She was arrested on similar charges back in March.

Durham police say her name is Melissa Lassiter, but people may also know her as "Lisa."

Bob Appleby and his wife are the latest alleged victims. Appleby let Lassiter in the house to use the phone and get a glass of water.

"She told me the story about her husband and kids stranded in Greensboro in a disabled vehicle. I had my back turned long enough for her to take the wallet, stick it under her shirt and walk out the door," Appleby said.

When Appleby warned his neighbors about the woman, the response surprised him

"All of a sudden, everyone's coming back with the same story. Same girl, same m.o. Neighbors see her walking around on a daily basis, so I assume every day she's going house to house," Appleby said.

Investigators believe she frequents the Trinity Park and Duke Park neighborhoods. They think she has been using the same sob story on kind-hearted neighbors for months.

"If someone needs help call 911 and get the police out there to help them. If they're legit, they'll stick around. If not, they'll leave," Sherman said.

Since the alleged crime is a misdemeanor larceny, if convicted, Lassiter would not see much jail time, if any. But police really just want to get the word out to make sure that residents are aware that there is a possible problem.


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