‘Gypsy’ gets 4 years for cheating man
A Florida man who authorities believe was part of a group of traveling scam artists with victims across Colorado will spend the next four years in prison for defrauding an 81-year-old Grand Junction man out of more than $18,000.
The sentence handed down Thursday by District Judge Richard Gurley was the maximum available under the terms of a plea agreement struck with Christopher Robert Dumas, 41, according to Deputy District Attorney Todd Hildebrandt.
“Preying on an 81-year-old man, clearly a prison sentence is appropriate,” Hildebrandt said.
Dumas, a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., pleaded guilty in February to felony theft between $1,000 and $20,000, while prosecutors moved to dismiss a charge of victimizing an at-risk adult.
Hildebrandt said investigators believe Dumas was part of a group of at least five people who targeted the victim, showing up at the man’s home the morning of March 17, 2009, and convincing him that his roof needed extensive repairs.
“They claimed they were in the neighborhood and could see from the outside the roof was leaking,” Hildebrandt said.
“See those shingles? Right there,” one of the suspects told the victim, according to an arrest affidavit. “(Victim) felt like this person was always watching him, always making small talk, stalling him by keeping him occupied.”
The victim, in speaking with investigators days after the incident, felt it was odd that the group of men directed him to his master bedroom, pointing out two large spots of fresh water, the affidavit said. In hindsight, the man said he believed he’d been sufficiently distracted to allow group members to dump the water to convince him he had a leaky roof.
After “15 to 20 minutes,” the men said they had completed the repairs on his roof and demanded $20,000 for the work. When the man said he couldn’t pay, Dumas responded, “Well, we’ve already done the work. We’re going to have to work something out,” the affidavit said.
The man, accompanied by Dumas, then drove to his bank and endorsed a check to Dumas for $14,800, before later withdrawing $4,000 in cash from his savings.
“He knew something was wrong before he ever paid, but felt that these individuals were teaming up on him and that they would physically harm him if he did not pay,” the affidavit said.
Dumas, described in an arrest affidavit as 5 feet, 11 inches tall and 270 pounds, had “hovered” over the man while standing in line at the bank, Hildebrandt said.
“He’s somewhat intimidating,” the prosecutor said.
Hildebrandt said an investigator later confirmed that no work had been done on the man’s roof.
“I think he felt really bullied,” the prosecutor said. Hildebrandt said he doesn’t know if the man lives alone.
“I’m confident he was alone when they were in his house.”
The other men present during the incident have not been identified, according to the prosecutor.
Hildebrandt said Dumas and his alleged associates are believed to be part of an organized group of “Irish gypsies,” who prey on the elderly with a variety of work scams.
Dumas had been serving probation related to a scam that left an elderly woman out $50,000 last year in Colorado Springs, the prosecutor said. Two other elderly victims of Dumas in Denver reportedly paid out more $18,000 combined for repairs to a sidewalk and other work. The scams happened within weeks of the incident in Mesa County.
Front Range law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the group, Hildebrandt said.