(Media release from the Floyd County Police Department):
Three men have been arrested for defrauding an elderly Armuchee woman of $118,000 from her life savings. Investigators say the victim wrote numerous checks to the men for tree work, and in some cases the suspects would follow her to the bank to collect their cash.
The trio was arrested on Wednesday near Johns Mountain at a creek side campsite by Investigator Jordan Clayton, who was in the area following up on a tip. The suspects are believed to have been recently living in the remote camp area where they were arrested in rural Armuchee, approximately 10 minutes away from the home of the 90-year-old victim.
Robert John Criswell, 39, of Lindale and Kyle Dewayne Dover, 28, of Cedartown, have been charged with exploitation of the elderly and theft by deception. They are being held on $15,000 bond. Hunter Chase Hammitt, 23, of Kingston, is being held with no bond on charges of exploitation of the elderly, theft by deception and probation violation.
Investigator Austin Webb alleges in his arrest documents that between December and April there were 33 checks written to individuals in the group for various amounts. Some tree work was completed, but in those cases the trees were left in place and small brush piles were left on the property. Shutters that were intended to be hung were barely attached and in some cases are hanging crooked by one screw.
The suspects met the victim while working for a local tree company, but were working on their own during the commission of the crimes.
Trailers filled with pine straw, rogue tree surgeons and traveling paving companies will often exaggerate damage and embellish their skill level to give hope to victims who might only need small repairs. In return for little or no work being done, these scammers often drive away with small fortunes. Frauds of this type are not uncommon and frequently occur because the elderly are sometimes embarrassed by the spending, or they are intimidated by the persistent and aggressive sales technique of scammers. We encourage families and neighbors to check in with older relatives to ensure they are not being swindled, especially if there are frequent visits by service technicians or home improvement companies to the home of an elderly person.
The Floyd County Police Department hopes to empower the community to look after neighbors and elderly family members to ensure they are not being victimized by savvy scammers.