|William E. Riley|
William E. Riley, 50, faces a Scott County charge of attempted financial exploitation of the elderly and a Perry County, Missouri, charge of resisting arrest.
On Dec. 1, Riley went to the home of an 88-year-old woman in rural Scott City, showed her some certification papers and said he needed to check the lightning rods on her home, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed by Capt. Jerry Bledsoe of the Scott County Sheriff's Department.
"After the inspection, Riley informed [the victim] that her lightning rods needed repair and she owed him $4,500," Bledsoe wrote. "[The victim] reportedly thought the repair price was too high but felt intimidated when Riley would not leave, so she issued a check to him in the amount of $4,500."
When Riley attempted to cash the check at Regions Bank in Scott City, bank officials became suspicious and called the victim, who asked them not to cash the check and said she had just written it so Riley would leave, Bledsoe wrote.
Reached by telephone Friday, Bledsoe said trying to cash a large check in a small town was a critical mistake by Riley.
"Typically, [scammers] want to get the money as quickly as possible, but on the flip side, when they are working in a smaller city, the banks know their customers," he said. "Bank officials find it questionable when someone from another area wants to draw a large sum of money."
Riley left the bank before officers could arrest him, but authorities caught up to him a few days later at the Regions Bank branch in Perryville.
"Initially, we had his name," Bledsoe said. "It was odd he used his real name. We thought it was fictitious at first, but we put out a statewide broadcast of the name used and Hannibal address."
A probation officer in Charleston, Missouri, responded to the broadcast, and Scott County officers were able to get a photo of Riley, which two bank employees picked out of a lineup, Bledsoe said.
Riley was arrested Wednesday in Perry County, Missouri, after a Regions Bank employee in Perryville called police to report another possible scam, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed by Sgt. Jason D. Kelley of the Perry County Sheriff's Department.
The bank employee said a paving company had given his client a quote of $3,000 to do some work at his home, but as soon as they finished the job, company employees told him the total cost would be $16,500, Kelley wrote in the affidavit.
The bank employee said when the client questioned the amount, one of the paving company employees, later identified as Riley, reduced the amount by $2,000 and accompanied the client to the bank, Kelley wrote.
Reached by telephone Friday, Perry County Sheriff Gary Schaaf said that's when officers discovered Riley and a man who was working with him, George Fogle Sr., both had warrants.
Fogle, 67, was arrested on an outstanding warrant out of Texas for scamming, Schaaf said.
When Kelley and Detective Jason Klaus responded to the call from the bank, Riley ran from them, Kelley wrote.
Kelley and Klaus caught up to Riley, who was charged with resisting arrest.
Bledsoe said Riley is part of a group of people who are suspected of running home-repair scams in Warren, Montgomery, Cape Girardeau and Audrain counties in Missouri and in Iowa, Kentucky, Texas and possibly Kansas.
"My investigation revealed he is part of a fairly organized group of people involved in scams involving lightning rods, paving blacktops, roofing repairs and cleaning gutters on homes," Bledsoe said.
He estimated the group is responsible for "thousands and thousands of dollars'" worth of scams.
Bledsoe said he's worked similar cases in the past, but the culprits usually are long gone before police are notified, making it difficult to find out who they were.
Schaaf said homeowners often sign contracts with the scammers, making it difficult -- if not impossible -- for police to run interference.
"We are familiar with it," he said. "We see it sometimes around here and in surrounding counties as well. They come to people's houses and do a substandard job and then charge three times what they told you before, and next thing you know, you're being ripped off."
Online court records show Riley has a long history of financial exploitation charges.
In 2009, he pleaded guilty to two counts each of theft and financial exploitation of the elderly in Pettis County, Missouri, and was placed on five years of supervised probation.
Riley successfully completed his probation in that case in January.
Also in 2009, he pleaded guilty to financial exploitation of the elderly in St. Charles County, Missouri, and was sentenced to three years in prison, online court records show.
At the time of his arrest Wednesday, he was wanted by the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole for a parole violation on an original charge of financial exploitation, and he also had a 2008 conviction for theft by deception in Marshall County, Kentucky, according to the Scott County probable-cause affidavit.
His bond was set at $25,000 cash only in the Scott County case.
Regions Bank spokeswoman Evelyn Mitchell said bank employees are encouraged to get to know their customers.
"We train our associates to look for unusual patterns," she said in a telephone interview Friday. "... Regardless of the market size, one of the things our associates do focus on is knowing their customers."
In an email message to the Southeast Missourian, Mitchell said employees are trained to spot potential financial exploitation cases.
"Regions Bank has procedures and processes in place to identify, investigate and report financial exploitation of older adults. This includes training associates to recognize potential elder financial exploitation," she wrote. "Our associates put their training to good use in this case to protect Regions customers and, hopefully, prevent future incidents."
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Bank employees help catch suspected scammer