Police on Monday arrested a man they think is one of several con artists preying on Spokane’s elderly.
Ronald Blevins, 34, of Spokane, was being held in the county jail on a charge of first-degree theft by deception in a sewer-repair scheme. Detectives are looking for other people they believe have preyed on elderly residents recently.
Many criminals see warmer temperatures and blooming foliage as an opportunity to defraud senior citizens, Spokane police detective Cheryl Graves said.
Several senior citizens have reported being duped by people promising work they never deliver, she said.
The detective said she suspects there are many more victims who haven’t called police for fear of embarrassment.
“Some people feel foolish,” said Graves, who encouraged all victims to call police. “If they tell us, we can do something about it.”
At least three people have complained about a man who tells homeowners there is a problem with their sewer line or septic tank and that he can fix it, Graves said.
He collects their money - in one case $600 - and leaves without doing any work, she said.
Police think Blevins was that man in at least one case.
He has an extensive criminal history in Spokane County, including several arrests for theft, according to court documents.
Several other elderly people have been hit by criminals who promise to do yard work, then either don’t do it or do a shoddy job. Either way, they charge exorbitant fees ranging upwards of $500, Graves said.
Sometimes they collect the money upfront, telling victims they need to rent tools to complete the work, she said.
“That should be a clue right then,” Graves said. “Reputable people have their own tools and equipment.”
Graves said the crooks often pick potential victims by cruising the streets and watching people come and go from their homes. “A lot of it is done just by knocking on the door.”
She encouraged anyone who has been victimized to call Crime Check at 456-2233.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Avoiding scams Police encourage people to: Ask to see a business license or surety bond. Reputable companies should have either or both. Ask for references. Get the names and telephone numbers of at least three satisfied customers. Be alert. Someone without tools is likely a con artist. Don’t pay in advance. Call around for an estimate from another firm and inspect the work before handing over the check. Get a description. Write down what a suspected con artist looks like, what kind of car he or she is driving and its license plate. Call police.