Local News

Morrisville Adds Charges in Suspected Magazine Scam

Posted August 13, 2007 11:21 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2007 8:21 a.m. EDT

— 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.