By Ed Brock
A man accused of taking money from elderly people for tree-removal work he never completed has surrendered to authorities.
Douglas Eugene Goins III, 27, of Griffin, was arrested Tuesday afternoon in Spalding County after turning himself in to authorities there and has been charged with theft by deception, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said. Law enforcement officers there and in Clayton County had been looking for Goins in connection with at least three incidents in both counties in which he would approach people who needed a tree removed and offer to cut down the tree and remove the debris for $400.
"Usually they would have to pay $1,000 to $1,500 for that," Turner said. "Since they think they're getting a good deal that's how he ropes them in."
Goins would then ask for a $200 advance to cover some expenses but would never do any work.
The news of Goins' arrest had one of his alleged victims, 63-year-old Louise Astin of Rex, virtually cheering.
"That's great, I tell you. What I understand is he ripped off a lot of people," Astin said. "Anybody who would use elderly people like that, taking their money, and then claim to be from a Christian family, that's just a jerk. That's a big jerk."
Goins and a woman approached Astin on Feb. 5 and made their offer. They even had a contract.
"He seemed like an up front guy," Astin said.
Astin gave them a check for $200 that Goins said he needed to rent a dumpster. A few days later Goins came back and told her he needed more money to fix his truck so she gave him an extra $100.
The woman, who Turner said has not been identified, came back on Feb. 8 and asked for more money but Astin refused to give her any more. Astin said the woman was his wife and he identified her as Leanna Davis.
After failing to reach Goins at the phone numbers he had left with her she eventually found Goins' father. Astin said Goins had told her that the company belonged to his father and he was running it while the father was sick.
But Astin said Goins' father denied all knowledge of what his son was doing.
"He said just have a warrant taken out for him and have them both arrested," Astin said.
Turner said victims identified a photograph of Goins as the man who approached them and Goins signed the contract with the victims using his own name.
The other two Clayton County victims lived in Ellenwood and Hampton.