Police investigators arrested two men, ages 73 and 58, in connection with several flim-flams in Durham in the past two months. They are now wanted on additional fraud charges.
The scams were variations on a con game called “the pigeon drop” in which the suspects persuade a victim to give up some “good faith” money in order to be able to get a larger amount of money. The scammers take the money, leaving the victim with nothing. The suspects in pigeon drops usually work in pairs.
The first incident was reported Sept. 27 at Wal-Mart on Glenn School Road. A man claiming to be an African refugee approached a woman and told her he had inherited $150,000 but he couldn’t take it back to his country because he would be killed. He told her that his deceased relative wanted him to donate the money to an “African Baptist Church” and he needed her help. A second man came up to them and offered his assistance. The woman was told that she needed to put up $10,000 to show good faith before he gave her the money. The woman withdrew $10,000 from her bank and gave it to the men. After they left, she discovered that she had been given torn up paper instead of cash.
On Oct. 21, a woman called police and told them she had been scammed out of $790 by two men who approached her at Wal-Mart on Glenn School. The men claimed they had found a wallet with $60,000 in it in the parking lot and would share it with her if she would put up money to pay taxes on it. The woman gave the men the cash and later discovered that they had given her paper, not money.
Last week, officers responded to a suspicious person call at Wal-Mart on Glenn School Road and learned that two men matching the descriptions of men and the vehicle (a silver Mercedes) involved in the earlier incidents had been seen in the area, but had left the scene. Investigators from the Police Department’s Fraud Unit went to other Wal-Marts in the area and spotted the two possible suspects and a silver Mercedes near Wal-Mart on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The two men were in the company of an elderly woman who told investigators they had approached her and told her about a bag filled with money in the parking lot.
Investigators arrested Charles Henry Arms, 73, of Charlotte and charged him with two counts of felony conspiracy and two counts of obtaining property by false pretense. He was placed in Durham County Jail under a $20,000 bond. They also arrested Ramee Shabazz, 57, of Charlotte and charged him with one count of felony conspiracy and one count of obtaining property by false pretense.
Arms and Shabazz both have prior felony records and use several aliases. Investigators searched the silver Mercedes and found stacks of paper cut to the size of dollar bills along with letters similar to those used in Nigerian Advance Fee Scams.
Both men were released from jail after posting bond. Investigators have since taken out additional charges of attempting to obtain property by false pretense and felony conspiracy against both men. Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to call 919 560-4440, ext. 29313 or CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.