Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is warning residents about the recent influx of traveling scam artists into Polk County.
On Thursday, February 22, 2007, Polk Sheriff’s deputies received information that a large group of people, who refer to themselves as “gypsies,” were camped out at the Theme World R.V. Park located at 2727 Frontage Road in Haines City. Each of these people are driving 2007-model large trucks, SUV’s, and Mercedes Benzes with sport wheels and custom paint jobs, and they are living in 5th wheel trailers and motor homes, mostly with Illinois tags. When asked, the gypsies told deputies that they are pavers working in Polk, Hillsborough, and Orange counties, but could produce no valid business licenses. Upon further questioning, the men and women went into their motor homes, shut the doors, and refused to talk to deputies. They were then told that if they chose to remain in the area, deputies would be responding there on a daily basis to see proper licenses to work in the area.
Deputies did arrest one of these gypsies, James Michael Gorman, DOB 4/8/62, of 2525 Frontage Road, lot 222, for 2 counts of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, when they checked his criminal history and saw that he had previously been convicted of felony fraud and had in his possession a handgun and an SKS assault rifle. Further checks revealed Gorman has a warrant from South Carolina, and a warrant from Tennessee, both for defrauding the elderly in those states. After he faces Polk County charges, he will be extradited to each of these states to face the fraud charges there.
Traveling scam artists earn their living by preying on citizens, usually elderly, who need home improvement work done, such as roofs and driveways coated or repaired. Once they get a contract and a down-payment on the promised work, they leave town, only to set up camp in another unsuspecting town and prey on the citizens there.
Sheriff Judd reminds citizens, “Be aware of criminals like these and notify law enforcement immediately if you feel you have been a victim of a traveling scam artist. Our deputies will maintain a heavy presence anywhere gypsies camp out until Polk County is rid of these criminals.”