Local News

Strawberry Growers Suspect Scam

Posted May 9, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Strawberry farmers have already had a rough year with late-season frosts and heavy rains. Now that they've finally got their berries to market, a 78-year-old man appears to be scamming them out of some profits.

Growers say the man, who drives a pickup truck, has told them that he's a minister and that he's disabled. He said he wanted to buy some strawberries for an orphanage. The growers were sympathetic and gave him a discount on their berries. Then, they found out they'd been taken.

Berry farmer Sue Phillips says the man was very persistent.

But Phillips was suspicious and she did some checking. She discovered the orphanage had never heard of him, so she called the sheriff's department in hopes of warning others, but it was too late for some.

Berry farmer Jean Copeland says she was very upset when she found out the man was misleading her. She had dealings with him four different times.

The man is well-known at the North Carolina State Farmers' Market where vendors have been warned about him. Strawberry vendor Donna Barefoot says most people think he's trying to sell the berries at a profit to other vendors.

The man has managed to fool at least five farmers in the past few weeks. The sheriff's department has identified the man, but has not charged him in connection with the berry scam. WRAL-TV5'sAmanda Lambcontacted him by telephone. The man denied he was involved in the scam and said the sheriff's department has identified the wrong man.