5 On Your Side

Elderly man bamboozled out of $91,000

Posted December 10, 2009 5:18 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2009 10:45 a.m. EST

Senior citizens are often targets for unscrupulous people looking to make an easy buck. It could happen to your parents or your grandparents or even you.

5 On Your Side hears from lots of people who have been taken advantage of, but this case is really serious. In less than two months, an elderly Wake County man was bilked out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Robert Britt’s story is a lesson for all of us.

Kenneth Lewis and several other men told Robert Britt in March that his house needed work. Britt’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Britt, said the men did little work. The work they did was unnecessary and poorly done.

She said they installed "indoor" doors on Britt's outdoor workshop, never finished a promised paint job, installed insulation backwards and did not add house support jacks as they claimed.

“One of the pump jacks that we touched, it just fell over,” she said.

The men provided Robert Britt with boilerplate "contractor's invoices" that did not list any company information. He said they then filled out his blank checks and got him to sign them.

“There were some of them written for $8,000,” Elizabeth Britt said. “When I was looking at his check registry, he had it written down as $800.”

In May, Robert Britt’s bank called suspecting something was wrong. Elizabeth was horrified when she found out how much money was gone. She found her father-in-law had spent more than $90,000.

“I was quite upset,” she said. “How could somebody do this to an elderly person?”

Checks to Lewis total almost $68,000. He has quite a history of fraud charges in both Edgecombe and Nash counties and now faces similar charges in Cary. Brandon Reams and Chris Newton are also charged in Britt's case.

“I think they're opportunists,” Cary police Lt. Steve Fonke said. “They think about nothing but their own well being. Victimizing someone and taking every penny they have wouldn't cause these guys to lose a minute of sleep.”

Fonke said he believes Britt was a target.

“It just seems to be a generational thing,” he said. “The older American comes from maybe a more trusting generation, but they're dealing with people who clearly aren't to be trusted.”

“They're a bunch of crooks,” Robert Britt said he knows now.

“There's no reason for somebody to do this to anybody. He would have given the shirt off his back, and he pretty much did,” his daughter-in-law said.

Lewis and Newton were still at large. Anyone with information about there whereabouts is asked to call the Cary Police Department at 919-469-4012‎.