Capt. Craig Dodd with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office warns area businesses of elaborate telephone scams, which can be perpetrated even by prison inmates. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — The Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office is warning businesses of well-executed telephone scams designed to rob them of their merchandise or services. Capt. Craig Dodd with the Sheriff’s Office held a media conference Friday to report one such scam and the attempt of another.
Investigators became aware of the scam against Potter Motor Company, 1502 E. Oglethorpe Blvd., on Jan. 8, Dodd said, when the company’s invoice for two professional lawn mowers was refused by Water Gas & Light. Dodd said someone had apparently ordered the Gravely “zero-turn” mowers with a single cellular phone call by imitating the voice of a well-known former employee of WG&L.
Investigators believe the phone call was from Joseph Harvey Raper, 46, who was — and is — an inmate at Ventress Correctional Center in Clayton, Ala. Raper’s contraband cell phone was discovered and confiscated by prison officials just before contact from the DCSO, Dodd said, and the numbers matched the calls to Potter. Raper has been charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit theft by deception and two counts of theft by deception, Dodd said.
“(Raper) just called up Potter Motor and told them, ‘I want to order so and so,’” Dodd said. “He knew everything to say and spoke to the man like they were friends.”
Dodd said the Potter representative knew the man Raper was impersonating, but hadn’t spoken with him in quite a while. The mower company even received a well-made counterfeit purchase order, Dodd said.
According to Dodd, two men with Alabama driver’s licenses and an unmarked truck showed up at Potter Motor to pick up the mowers. Management was suspicious, but the impersonator happened to call the dealership while the men were there and was “very convincing,” Dodd said.
Two brothers, Dustin Wayne Goodner and Daniel Chace Goodner, have been arrested and charged with criminal attempt to commit a felony, Dodd said. A warrant had been issued for the arrest of Fletcher Williams, one of the men who authorities say picked up the mowers from Potter Motor in January. Williams is charged with theft by deception with other charges pending, Dodd said.
Dodd said that Cleve Wester Tire Mart on W. Oglethorpe Blvd. was almost taken in by a similar scheme – for a huge “sale” of tires to a local construction company — but sensed “something wasn’t right” and called the company.
“You’d think they’d be able to shut down cellular traffic in a prison,” Dodd said, “but the government says you can’t stop the air waves from transmitting. Some of our laws are kind of interesting to deal with.”
Dodd advises business to be suspicious about orders placed over the phone, and to call the company telephone number in their files for verification – not the number the caller gives.
“There may be other victims out there who don’t realize yet they’ve been hit, with the purchase orders still in the billing cycles,” Dodd said. “These people know just what to say. They’re very good.”