Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Police say man using tree trimming business to steal
Celina police: at least two people scammed
By Margie Wuebker
A 33-year-old Indiana man is being held in the Mercer County Jail on a $250,000 bond after allegedly using a tree trimming service as a front to steal from unsuspecting victims.
James M. Duncan Jr. of Marion, Ind., appeared in Celina Municipal Court on Friday and was charged with two counts of felony theft and one count of forgery. The charges allege he scammed two victims, although Celina police suspect there may be more.
Police received a call Thursday from an elderly woman on Lisle Street who reported being robbed, Police Chief Dave Slusser said. She said three suspects came to her home offering tree-trimming services. One of the workers reportedly entered the home to speak with her and was left alone briefly.
The work crew completed the job and the woman paid them in cash. They left in a red pickup truck with a back cover and a long trailer. Soon after the woman discovered someone had gone through her purse and money was missing.
Later that day Celina police received a call concerning a suspicious person attempting to cash an $800 check from the woman's account at the Market Street branch of Mercer Savings Bank. Officers arrived to find the pickup truck and trailer at the location, as well as Duncan in possession of checks from other Celina residents and a blank check.
Police interviewed the two other suspects - one a teenager. The duo were not charged and eventually released from police custody, Slusser said.
The investigation is continuing. Slusser asks anyone who had work done by the tree-trimming crew or were contacted by them to call the police department at 419-586-2371 or another law enforcement agency in their area.
"If you did have contact with the suspects, you may be a victim of theft that has not been discovered as yet," the police chief said.
In addition, he said the apprehension of a suspect in this case shows the importance of the public and police working together to protect the community.
"Someone (at the bank) recognized that something did not look right and took an extra minute to call us," Slusser said.
- Daily Standard reporter Shelley Grieshop contributed to this story.