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Strawberry Growers Suspect Scam

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

Growers say the man, who drives a pickup truck, has told them that he'sa minister and that he's disabled. He said he wanted to buy somestrawberries for an orphanage. The growers were sympathetic and gave him adiscount 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 discoveredthe orphanage had never heard of him, so she called the sheriff'sdepartment in hopes of warning others, but it was too late for some.

Berry farmer Jean Copeland says she was very upset when she found outthe man was misleading her. She had dealings with him four differenttimes.

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

The man has managed to fool at least five farmers in the past fewweeks. The sheriff's department has identified the man, but has notcharged 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'sdepartment has identified the wrong man.

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