Local News

Alleged ID thief targeted deployed soldier

Posted August 19, 2011 5:56 p.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2011 6:31 p.m. EDT

— Erwin police said a house-sitter tried to pass himself off as a deployed soldier before his sudden death last weekend. They were planning to charge Neil Phillips with identity theft and other charges before his body was found, along with a gun and the soldier’s ID, in a Dunn cemetery.

While Roberto Beharry, 38, was serving in Afghanistan, Phillips listed his house for sale on Craigslist and sold some of his other possessions, Erwin Police Chief Warren Morrisette said.
Phillips’ actions were discovered when two people who had already put down payments of $1,000 each on the house ran into each other at the house. The two people then contacted Erwin Police on Aug. 7.

Police say Phillips assumed Beharry’s identity and made thousands of dollars by selling his TVs, electronics, tools and other possessions without his consent. Phillips sold three cars, firearms and major appliances as well.

“He [Phillips] looked enough like Beharry to pass himself off as him,” Lt. Bill Morris said. “Had the real estate transaction gone through, the loss would have been in excess of $100,000.”

Police are now trying to track down where all the items went and have identified at least 12 recipients so far. One of Beharry’s cars was found nearly 50 miles south, in the town of Shannon, with a new owner who had already gotten a title for the vehicle. So far, 118 items have been recovered. Police have no plans to file criminal charges against any of the people who bought the property.

“We have a few kitchen items, two cars, a handgun and a washer and dryer left to find,” Morris said.

“He told them he was going through a divorce or that he was moving,” Morris said of Phillips. “All the stories were legitimate enough that no one is getting charged with possession of stolen goods.”

Phillips’ dead body was found in the cemetery before a warrant could be drawn up for his arrest. The death investigation is being handled by Dunn Police.