Bradley County authorities are warning of a group they identify as "Irish Travelers," which investigators say have a history of targeting elderly and other vulnerable people in financial scams using aggressive and demanding tactics usually involving home repairs, according to a statement from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.
Residents are urged to report any incidents that fit this profile to local law enforcement, sheriff's office spokesperson Taylor Woodruff said in the statement.
On May 28, the sheriff's office sought information from the community to help identify a suspect who had preyed on an elderly resident in the Hopewell area in the west part of the county.
Residents provided information that led to the identification of Tommy Sherlock from North Augusta, S.C., Woodruff said.
"Investigators have determined that Sherlock is a member of a group of people known as 'Irish Travelers,' who are known for funding their livelihoods through scams involving driveway paving, roofing and other home-related repairs," he said. "Sherlock has been known to target elderly people who often fall prey to these con artists."
According to authorities, Sherlock allegedly targeted an elderly Hopewell area resident who said Sherlock was fast-talking and convincing in telling the resident the driveway needed work.
Once a small amount of work had been done, Sherlock became aggressive, demanding payment, Woodruff said.
"The victim reports to have been intimated into driving separately to a local retailer to obtain the maximum cash back from several small purchases," Taylor said. "A sticky black film was left on the victim's driveway, ultimately requiring it to be replaced or resurfaced entirely."
Warrants have been issued for Sherlock, charging him with theft, vandalism and financial exploitation of an elderly adult, officials said. He remains at large.
"Once again the residents of Bradley County have come together in partnership with our investigators to ensure justice is brought to a perpetrator who would take advantage of the vulnerable," Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson said in the statement. "The actions of this man and this group are inexcusable, and it is my intention to keep our county informed and educated on issues like this for their safety."
Bradley authorities warn residents to be on the lookout for Sherlock and ask anyone encountering someone using suspicious aggressive and demanding sales tactics such as those used in the Hopewell resident's case to contact local law enforcement.
According to the website irishcentral.com, there are between 7,000 and 40,000 people in the U.S. who are mostly descendants of groups of people who left Ireland around the time of the Great Hunger in Ireland 1840s. There are Irish Traveler enclaves throughout the South and in rural areas of East Coast states as well, according to the site.
Anyone who sees Sherlock or has information on his whereabouts should contact the Bradley County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division at 423-728-7336 or leave an anonymous tip at bradleysheriff.com/leave-a-tip.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.