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Morrisville Adds Charges in Suspected Magazine Scam

Posted August 13, 2007
Updated August 14, 2007

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— There were new charges Monday in a suspected magazine-subscription scheme.

Morrisville police said their town may have been targeted in addition to several neighborhoods in North Raleigh.

Residents came forward after seeing television news coverage of the story, police said, and they charged Thomas Fuller with two more counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Fuller and six others were arrested Friday in north Raleigh. City police said the seven had posed as local college athletes to get money for fake causes and to sell phony magazine subscriptions.

Monday, Denver Hensel, 21, of Uniontown, Ohio; Damion Balok, 25, of Belleview, Fla; Dustin Blount, 18, of Doylestown, Ohio; Jennifer Dobbs, 20, of Surprise, Ariz.; Thomas Fuller, 21, of Phoenix; Heather Austin, 18, of Minerva, Ohio; and Christopher McKim, 21, whose address is unknown had their first appearance before a Wake County judge.

As of 3 a.m. Tuesday, Fuller and McKim are still in jail. Austin, Balok, Blount, Hensel and Dobbs have all been released.

Carey Rountree is one of at least 15 people in Raleigh who gave money to the group. He recognized Heather Austin as the one who came to his door.

“I gave her the benefit of the doubt,” said Rountree. She told him she was raising money for a UNC soccer program, he said. He was suspicious, but decided to be generous.

“You want to help people out,” Rountree explained.

Beryl and Elizabeth Wagner said it was Denver Hensel who came to their door. Beryl said Hensel told them he was with a club baseball team at NC State that had just returned from a tournament in Maui.

“You know, I said something doesn’t sound right to me,” Beryl said, recalling the visit. He
Beryl looked up the number for the baseball program at NCSU. When a coach told him the story wasn’t legitimate, Wagner called police.

With Wagner’s help, police tracked down Hensel and a van carrying the rest of the crew.

Raleigh Police are investigating the group’s claim that they were selling for a company called Quality Subscriptions, Inc.

A company with that name is listed in Buford, Ga. It has an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau, and a phone number listed for the company on the BBB report rings to a fax line.

Damion Balok’s father said he and his family knew nothing of the arrest until WRAL called them.

“Only thing I knew, he found a job in the paper,” Greg Balok told WRAL over the phone from his home in Belleview, Fla. “He told me he was going around and they were going state-to-state selling magazines,” added Balok. He says his son started the job three weeks ago and he believed Damion had been in Boston and Washington, D.C., before Raleigh.

Greg Balok said his son told him the employer paid room and board. The sellers apparently had to sell a certain amount before getting paid, he said.

Elizabeth Wagner said she felt the group wasn’t from Raleigh.

“My suspicion is that they were moving from city to city, and they had some degree of success to do that,” said Wagner.

30 Comments

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  • ilene3 Aug 14, 2007

    Over 30 years ago, I was hired by one of these mag. sales co. in Florida. I was living on the streets and needed a job. I thought the subs. were legit. They stay in one town for one week then move 100 miles to next. That's how I made it to Raleigh. They train you to lie, taking ID from nearby colleges, so you can sell. They kept the money I earned only giving me enough to eat. Also said I owed for hotels, expenses; so I felt like a slave. They treatened to send me home to Fla., but I had nowhere to live. I was lucky to meet a man, a Free Mason, who I put my trust in and he got me away from these people & found me a job & an apartment. He gave me a start in life in Raleigh & I love it here. I do not know about these six young people, but they may not know they were doing wrong. I did not know, I was just trying to survive. I was lucky because that man I met in a bar could have been a bad guy, but he wasn't. These companies use & abuse young people-they need to be stopped.

  • dsdaughtry Aug 14, 2007

    A quick search on the names with MySpace turns up some interesting information. Denver Hensel is not from Raleigh but from Ohio. He has his parents photos listed on the web site along with some other people that might show more leads on what went on with the magazine sales. The ironic part is that Denver even states in his MySpace profile that he does not like the police (local police should love that one). Dustin Blount seems to be flashing around some money in his MySpace photo. Needless to say it looks like a deeper crime, perhaps drugs, than anything else. Seems like the center of this surround Ohio.

    Denver Hensel
    http://www.myspace.com/crazywhiteboy122006 (with photos) http://www.myspace.com/dhensel86

    Dustin Blount
    http://www.myspace.com/dirtdynomite3

    If you have been scammed or know someone that has been scammed regarding this specific incident please contact the Raleigh Police Department at 919-890-3335.

  • Felton23 Aug 14, 2007

    do a google search for "magazine scams", the second link is a very good website, lists all the criminal offenses, articles, lawsuits related to these companies and kids, very very scary, been going on forever.

  • Lakeisha Aug 14, 2007

    I JUST CHECKED OUT THERE MUG SHOTS AND TO MY SURPRISE THE ENJOYED THERE PHOTO SHOTS EXCEPT THE RALEIGH GUY. THIS IS A JOKE TO THEM AND I HOPE THE GET A STIFF PENELITY FOR THIS, INSTEAD OF A SLAP ON THE WRIST! PEOPLE NEED TO WAKE UP AND STOP BUYING FROM DOOR TO DOOR SALES BECAUSE IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!! I NEVER OPEN MY DOOR TO STRANGERS AND I AM 31! I KNOW BETTER!

  • enoughsaid Aug 14, 2007

    I ANSWER THE DOOR WITH MY ROOMATES.....MR SMITH & WESSON!!

  • SWinslow Aug 14, 2007

    A similar or the same group came by last year in our Swift Creek area neighborhood. My wife and I were out working in the yard and this punk comes up and says he is with the UNC baseball team. I knew it was a scam and just said "Not interested." He became very angry and I threatened to call the police so he left. They are scum.

  • Tripwire Aug 14, 2007

    They usually don't go past the "danger minefield" sign in my front yard.

  • RIP- Yogi Bear Aug 14, 2007

    Someone yesterday made a post re this same incident and said that they have a sign posted on their porch that says:

    "If we don't know you don't knock!"

    I may have to get one of those myself.

  • Carolina Fever Aug 14, 2007

    I got a visit from people doing the same thing before in Raleigh a couple years ago. This has been going on for a while. I thought one of the big news shows had a story on it before, too. They talked about how it was a scam, but also how it was almost like a cult, too, and the people don't get paid until they sale a certain amount.

  • Raleighnative58 Aug 14, 2007

    We got a visit from these folks too (we live in Morrisville). Ironically, last year around this same time, we also received a visit from 2 women doing the same thing. They were "hitting" homes with large amounts of cars parked in the driveway and we just happened to be having a party. One of my relatives DID place an order but we were all skeptical. He DID receive his magazine subscription though, albeit 4 months later.

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