Handy man charged with forgery after targeting elderly man - WKRN News 2

Handy man charged with forgery after targeting elderly man

Posted: Updated: May 31, 2013 04:31 PM

A 91-year-old World War II veteran is warning his neighbors and fellow church members not to let people do unsolicited yard work.

The warning comes after Metro Police arrested a 32-year-old man who used the promise of tree trimming to steal checks and $350 dollars from veteran Thomas Crowell.

"After they left I knew there was something wrong," Crowell said. "I looked at my bank statement and I saw the checks there for $350."

He explained that last Spring, Gary Stamper came to his home offering to do yard work.

Crowell hired Stamper, who was working with another man, to trim his trees.

After about 15 minutes of work, the men went inside Crowell's home with him so he could write them a check for their work.

Later, Crowell noticed one of his checks was missing and an authorized check, along with the check he wrote them for the tree trimming, was cashed.

"I felt kind of guilty that I didn't pick up on it," Cromwell said. "I just wanted to be nice, give him a check and let him go on his way."

Neighbors said Stamper knocked on other doors in the neighborhood over the course of a couple of days.

Michael Varley lives next door to Cromwell. He said he started cutting Cromwell's yard a few years ago and was surprised to see the other men working in Cromwell's yard.

"These guys just kind of showed up, did the job, left and took advantage of him," he said. "It was disheartening."

He continued, "I was aggravated and angry. [Cromwell] is always helping people who come around the neighborhood, looking for a little odd and end jobs."

A Davidson County grand jury indicted Stamper on felony forgery and identity theft charges after the incident.

He was also charged with theft of merchandise under $500.

Metro police said criminal activity like this happens year round, but during this time of year it centers mostly on yard work.

Police said the elderly are especially vulnerable because the crooks target them and can intimidate them into writing checks.

"The best piece of advice we can give elderly people is if someone approaches you unsolicited, don't accept their offer," Metro Police Property Crimes Lieutenant Grant Carroll said. "Do your homework and try to delay them."

He continued, "They will try to intimidate the elderly into taking on work right there so delay them. Tell them you have a phone call or tell them you have to use the restroom, but do not let them into your home."

Stamper is said to work with partners, possibly relatives, including women, who bring along children to help convince their targets to let them into their homes.

He was arrested on a separate theft charge May 21 after police said he and his wife tried to buy items at Walmart in Hermitage with invalid checks.

Police said the couple also took bar codes off of less expensive items and put them on high dollar items.

The arrest report said the couple then tried to purchase items at the self check out kiosk.

Stamper is scheduled to make his next court appearance June 26.

He remains free on bond.

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