‘Gypsies’ on the prowl

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2002

Messenger Intern

It is that season again when a group of con artists known as the "gypsies" are abundant in Pike County.

Last week, a Pike County woman was robbed of her purse by two men who promised to save her money on her electricity bill.

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The woman told authorities that at about 1 p.m. a white male knocked on her door and told her he was there to check the residence for any needed repairs, according to Sheriff Russell Thomas.

The suspect had long hair that reached his collar and was wearing a straw hat, a blue shirt and white pants.

When he entered the victim’s residence, he said he needed assistance with holding a measuring tape. While the subject and the victim made measurements in one room, another white male entered the residence.

"He kept her occupied while the other one came in the house," Thomas said.

The entire incident lasted about 10 minutes and, after it was over, the victim’s purse was gone and her telephone line had been cut.

The two men were driving an older model, small white car.

Thomas said the county has been in contact with other law enforcement agencies that have reported "identical" incidents.

"Apparently, it’s a large network of gypsies who travel around to different counties and they take advantage of people- most of the time it’s senior citizens- and they steal everything they can. They tell them they can save them money on their electricity bill.

"Every year about this time, a group of gypsies come over and offer to paint barn tops. Usually, they lie about the amount of paint used and the paint that was used is usually diluted," Thomas said.

Last year, the sheriff’s department caught up with a group of gypsies that were staying at a local hotel. When they were asked to produce a business license, they were unable to, so they were asked to leave.

"’60 Minutes’ did a special on it and these people live in really extravagant homes and drive extravagant vehicles," Thomas said.

An almost identical incident happened in Georgia when two white males tricked a Bulloch County woman about of $70.

The woman told deputies a white male with medium build and brownish-gray hair knocked on her back door Wednesday and offered to help her save money on her light bill.

He asked her to hold up the measuring tape until her arm began to hurt and then he told her "to hold on."

After he said she could let go of the tape, he asked if she had change for a $100 bill.

The man offered to give her the $100 bill if she gave him a $20, thus "saving her $80 on her light bill. She said she didn’t have the change so he told her they send a check," said Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Howard NeSmith.

When the men left, it became obvious to the woman that the room had been ransacked. Three $20 bills and a $10 bill missing were found missing from her purse.

Thomas is urging people to be cautious of strangers and to be aware that this type of criminal activity is common this time of the year.

"Don’t let a stranger into your home. When in doubt, call law enforcement. If they’re legitimate, it won’t bother them to wait," Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the group usually acts during the daytime.

"During the daytime, a lot of times most people are at home with the doors unlocked. In this day and age, you have to use extra caution."