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If tree falls, it may be a scam



Date published: 12/28/2012

BY PORTSIA SMITH

Two men are facing charges of attempting to scam a Stafford County homeowner out of money.

Stafford County Sheriff's Office spokesman Bill Kennedy said a resident in the Argyle Heights area reported to police that there was some suspicious activity going on at a neighbor's house.

The neighbor reported loud knocking at the southern Stafford home around 10 a.m. on Dec. 21 and noticed a note was left on the front door.

The note was from the homeowner's yard worker letting her know that a tree was down on the property and she could call him on his cellphone to have him remove it, according to a relative of the victim.

Although her car was parked in the garage, the neighbor knew that the homeowner was out of state visiting relatives for the holidays, the relative said.

The neighbor noticed that a small tree was lying on the ground, blocking access to the homeowner's driveway, but Kennedy said it was obvious that the tree had been "deliberately cut to get money from the homeowner."

After verifying with the homeowner that no one was authorized to cut the tree down, Kennedy said an undercover detective, posing as the neighbor, contacted the phone number left on the note.

The detective told the person on the phone that the homeowner was out of town, but wanted the tree removed immediately because they had family coming over for Christmas and that they could give him cash if he came that day, Kennedy said.

About an hour later, Kennedy said two men arrived to do the work and were arrested shortly after.

Michael Lee Garner, 50, of Falmouth and William Shelton, 39, of Woodford Street in Fredericksburg are charged with obtaining money by false pretenses, trespassing with intent to damage property and felony vandalism.

Garner, who had been hired by the homeowner to do work for her in the past, was also wanted in Fredericksburg on a drug charge.

Kennedy warned senior citizens to be cognizant of any suspicious activity and to be wary of any scams like this. If suspicions arise, he said residents should call the Sheriff's Office at 540/658-4400.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419
Email: psmith@fredericksburg.com