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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

Scam artists return to town

Friday, August 5, 2005

SIKESTON - The Irish Travelers have struck in Sikeston again, according to Sikeston Department of Public Safety officials.

Tuesday afternoon an elderly couple on Illinois Street became the latest local victims, said DPS Detective Sgt. James Donner.

"Three white males told an elderly couple they were ready to open a furniture store for the elderly," Donner said. "One talked with the lady while the others went around and got into her purse." The scam artists succeeded in stealing an undisclosed amount of cash, according to Donner.

DPS officials are working with Joe Livingston, a senior special agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division that specializes in investigating scams perpetuated by the Irish Travelers.

An insular ethnic clan that emigrated to the United States from Ireland in the mid-19th century , the Irish Travelers take to the road in spring making their way toward the northern states while engaging in questionable enterprises in towns along the way.

"They follow the weather is what they do," Donner said. "They do these scams the entire way there and the entire way back." And Sikeston, DPS officials said, is located on their regular route.

Authorities say Irish Travelers often offer home improvement services such as power washing, painting, roofing, and resurfacing driveways.

Sometimes they simply overcharge for shoddy work, according to authorities, while other times the sales pitch is a merely a distraction to allow others from the group to engage in thievery.

"They work in groups," Donner said. "They make millions and millions a year. It's how they make their living. It's a huge network."

The furniture store scam is almost exactly the same method reportedly used in July to steal $5,000 from an elderly lady in Virginia, according to Donner. The suspects in both incidents reportedly were driving a white, full-sized pickup truck with an extended cab.

Donner said authorities believe more than one group of Irish Travelers are in the area but are likely to move on once they realize local law enforcement agencies are looking for them.