Three North Texas con artists are in the Texas County Jail after a driveway sealcoating scam targeting an elderly Texas County resident. James Pruitt, 67; George Lester Fogle, 65, and Charles Theodore Dodd, 45, all from Point, Texas, about 65 miles east of Dallas, are each charged with four counts of obtaining property by trick or deception, false statement, pretense or con game, and one count each of conspiracy.
The men were arrested in the 500 block of North Ellison on Aug. 9 by Texas County Sheriff’s Deputies after trying to cash a check for $19,000 at City National Bank.
The men allegedly conned Marvin Lunsford, 81, of rural Texas County, out of $129,000 by saying his driveway contained a toxin known as creosote, and they would seal it. When he said he couldn’t afford to have the work done, the men told Lunsford he could be fined up to $150,000 by the “Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.”
There is, in fact, such an agency. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), based in Atlanta, Ga., is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ATSDR serves the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances, according to the agency Website.
The con began May 24 when Lunsford wrote a $15,000 check to Pruitt for the sealcoat work after the three men went to to his residence. Lunsford told the Texas County Sheriff’s Department in an affidavit that Pruitt took a sample of the asphalt in the driveway without Lunsford’s knowledge or permission.
The men returned to Lunsford’s residence on July 16, and Pruitt again took a sample of the asphalt and told Lunsford it still contained toxins and needed to be sealed again. Lunsford wrote a check for $34,000. The men returned a third time on July 23 with the same claim, and Lunsford paid $40,000.
The men returned to the Lunsford residence yet again on July 31 and claimed the driveway needed to be sealed a final time at a cost of $59,000. Lunsford wrote a check for $40,000 and a post-dated check for $19,000.
Lunsford’s family members alerted the Texas County Sheriff’s department on Aug. 3, Lunsford stopped payment on the final check, and City National Bank was made aware of the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation.
On Aug. 9 at 12:20 p.m., City National Bank called the Sheriff’s Department and said Pruitt was at the bank attempting to cash the final check. Deputies Chad Mussman and Matt Boley went to the bank and observed a silver 2012 GMC pickup with Texas plates registered to Pruitt in the east parking lot. Two individuals, later identified as Fogle and Dodd, were inside the truck. A short time later, Pruitt exited the bank, and the truck left southbound on Ellison Street, where Mussman pulled the vehicle over.
The men were arrested and taken to the District Attorney’s Task Force office.
Pruitt has a past criminal history, including driving under the influence, impersonating a public servant and theft by deception. Fogle also has a history of flight to avoid prosecution, fraud, theft, forgery, theft by deception and engaging in organized criminal activity, and Dodd has a history of drug possession, burglary, resisting arrest and property damage offenses.
The men are in the county jail with bond set at $25,000 cash only.