Five law enforcement agencies working undercover charged five people acting as travelers and three other people in unrelated crimes, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office used undercover detectives and help from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Department of Financial Services, and the Florida Highway Patrol, and the State Attorney’s Office to arrest the suspects in Lake Alfred.
Those arrested were:
Bartholomew Rafferty, 32, 1635 Pinon Glen Circle, Colorado Springs, exploitation of the elderly, burglary, grand theft, worker’s compensation fraud out-of-state contractor, worker’s compensation fraud by presentation of false certification of insurance, worker’s compensation fraud by failing to secure worker’s compensation insurance.
Patrick Rafferty, 29, 17812 Farragut Way, Hagerstown, Md., exploitation of the elderly, burglary, grand theft, worker’s compensation fraud out-of-state contractor, worker’s compensation fraud by presentation of false certification of insurance, worker’s compensation fraud by failing to secure worker’s compensation insurance.
Alexander Parker, 25, Ocean Wind Road, Bear, Del., exploitation of the elderly, burglary, grand theft, worker’s compensation fraud out-of-state contractor, worker’s compensation fraud by failing to secure worker’s compensation insurance.
Charles Evans, 30, 509 Southwind Road, Fairwinds, Del., exploitation of the elderly, burglary, grand theft, worker’s compensation fraud out-of-state contractor, worker’s compensation fraud by failing to secure worker’s compensation insurance.
Joseph Benedic Croughin, 17, 223 Shawnee Valley Drive, East Stroudsburg, Pa., two counts burglary, grand theft.
In addition to the five travelers arrested, detectives arrested three others on unrelated charges while they were making contacts in the northeast Polk County area:
Jeffery D. West, 52, 11735 N. Marjory Ave., Tampa, resisting arrest and petit theft;
David West, 26, 11735 N. Marjory Ave., Tampa, petit theft;
Julius Rollins, 55, 1420 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, failure to appear-stalking.
“These scam artists prey on unsuspecting victims,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “They target the elderly because they are more trusting; thus making them easier targets for quick scams. And by the time the crime has been committed, the suspect is long gone, the victim has been swindled out of their money and must hire legitimate businesses to ‘fix’ work which wasn’t needed in the first place, or was done at substandard levels.”
Travelers, often called gypsies, live in closely guarded societies and share a common preference for nomadic lifestyles, the sheriff’s office reports. They solicit victims for business, most often construction related work such as roof repairs and asphalt work, then give the victim unqualified, uninsured and untruthful estimates for home improvements and repairs.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, an undercover senior citizen posed as an elderly woman who was concerned about her roof’s structure. Prior to the investigation a credible roofing contractor inspected the roof and found it structurally sound and not in need of repair, the sheriff’s office reported. Several traveler businesses were contacted for roof estimates.
An inspection was set up for 9:30 a.m. by Rafferty Roofing. Bartholomew and Patrick Rafferty arrived and gave false information to the undercover “victim” about her roof needing repair, the sheriff’s office reports. They offered to place silicone in several areas where roof shingles, they claimed, were missing (there were no shingles missing when the home was inspected prior to the operation). The Raffertys also claimed the areas around her vent pipes needed to be sealed.
After spending 13 minutes with the undercover senior citizen and conducting the inspection they offered to fix the roof for $975, sheriff’s office reports.
When asked to provide proof of liability insurance Bartholomew retrieved a fraudulent insurance document and presented it to the undercover senior citizen. Both suspects were arrested, sheriff’s office reports.
During the investigation it was revealed the Raffertys were visiting Florida from Colorado. Patrick Rafferty also gave an address in Maryland. The suspects’ vehicle was equipped with $2,500 worth of tools, sheriff’s office reports. These tools were seized for civil forfeiture.
Detectives then contacted several similar out-of-state businesses that have traveled to Florida and were staying in the northeast section of Polk County. During the calls, many of the travelers acknowledged knowing the Raffertys were going to the undercover location to give an estimate. It was clear the travelers detectives were contacting were all related and/or had close relationships and were aware of each other’s activities.
Detectives contacted a company called A. Parker Contracting. The suspect, identified as Charles, advised he and his partners were in Leesburg working, but could give an estimate at 4 p.m.
At approximately 4:45 p.m., Alexander Parker and Charles Evans arrived at the house.
Parker made contact with the undercover elderly woman and indicated the roof appeared to be in good shape. Both suspects then walked around the perimeter of the property. They came back to the woman and said it appeared there may be some damage but they would have to take a closer look. Parker told the elderly woman he would apply silicone to several areas of the roof for $600. He brought a contract in for the undercover senior citizen to sign and also showed her fraudulent insurance paperwork upon request, sheriff’s office reports.
The suspects then went on the roof and conducted an inspection. Parker came back inside and told the undercover officer there were numerous nails popping up and the areas around the vents were dry-rotted. Even though there are no trees above the roof, he told the undercover senior citizen it appeared something fell from the sky on the roof causing damage to a large area, the sheriff’s office reported.
He told the undercover senior citizen that he would have to figure a price for the needed work. Both suspects were then arrested.
The investigation revealed the two suspects were from Delaware. Parker also had a driver’s license from North Dakota. Evans had $761, police reported. The truck was equipped with $1,000 worth of tools. The currency, tools, and 2007 Chevy truck were seized.
Detectives obtained a warrant for 17-year-old Joseph Croughin after he solicited an elderly man in Lake Alfred about doing unneeded roof work at his residence.
Croughin dumped tar on the roof and poured rocks on top of it. He charged the victim $600 for this work, police reported. He then told the victim he needed more money so he could buy more materials. The victim became suspicious and called law enforcement.
During the investigation, Croughin was located living in the KAO campground on Frontage Road near Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 27.
Croughin was arrested on Thursday, Jan. 12, the sheriff’s office reports.
During the arrest, Croughin’s parents were present. Croughin’s father repeatedly told his son not to cooperate with detectives.
An unidentified white female also present at the time of Croughin’s arrest was belligerent with detectives.
Without being told what type of scam had occurred, she advised she worked for a legitimate paving company in Virginia. The unidentified woman on scene claimed to be associated with the FBI, CIA and a senator in Virginia. She also referenced the arrests detectives made on the four suspects the day before.
At no time had the previous arrests been discussed with those present during Croughin’s arrest.