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Police urge seniors to watch for thieves selling linoleum

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Clayton County police are warning senior citizens to watch out for a crew of con men pretending to sell linoleum.

A 70-year-old Jonesboro woman had a $600 diamond-studded, gold, wedding ring, her social security card, bank card, drivers license and $300, stolen out of her bedroom while she was talking to two men in her living room.

"I don't know why I let him in," Betty Gable said. "I feel stupid. Stupid. I'm 70 years old and let someone in to do something like that."

The senior theft victim told police the thieves came to her door and said they were "interested in antiques and would like to show her some linoleum," according to the police report. One man sat on her couch, while the other stood there, showing off the unrolled flooring.

Investigators think there could have been a third man, who stole the things from the bedroom while the other two distracted Gable.

"You think, this guy's holding up a big piece of linoleum, how easy would it be for a guy to stand behind him?" said Officer Tim Owens. "Whoever they are, it took some thought to set it up the way they did. Elderly people should be aware of selling people door-to-door ... If somebody's 70 or 80, they grew up in an era of door-to-door salesmen. Now, you almost never see that. I think this is a scam that's being perpetrated against the elderly."

Gable didn't even realize anything had been stolen until the next day, when she went to run errands.

"I went to Wal-Mart," Gable said, "and picked up a couple of things I needed, and I went to pay cash and my wallet was empty."

An almost identical scam was perpetrated in April against an 82-year-old man within the city limits of Jonesboro. Sam Campbell let two men who said they were selling linoleum into his home. While the one man talked to Campbell, city police reported, the other man took more than $2,500 in money and jewels, including two wedding rings, from a back bedroom.

Major Brad Johnson, speaking to the Clayton News Daily at the time of the robbery, said the con men talked their way into the home, pretending like they knew the elderly man.

"If [someone] is going door-to-door," Johnson warned, "they're probably up to no good, because we just don't allow that in Jonesboro."

Owens said the linoleum con is unusual, but the tactic has been seen before.

"Over the year's, you've had two groups of people, you have the travelers and you've had the gypsies. They move around and prey on elderly people," he said.

Gable told police the two suspects were both white males, wearing blue jeans and brown boots. One was about five-foot-10, weighing 190, and the other was five-foot-eight, weighing about 180.

Anyone with information about the linoleum sellers, is asked to call the police department's tip line at (770) 473-5400.