Group scams elderly man, takes money for drugs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Authorities say several suspects took an elderly Rowan County man to banks and stores Monday, convincing him they were relatives and using his money to buy drugs, cigarettes and food. And they say it’s not the first time.
Police arrested one suspect, Wayne Morgan Coley Jr., after a high-speed chase Monday night and say they expect more arrests.
“This is despicable behavior,” Salisbury Police Deputy Chief Steve Whitley said Tuesday. “We are going to pursue it just as fast and hard as we can.”
Police say the suspects took the 85-year-old Woodleaf Road man, whom the Post is not identifying, to F&M Bank to withdraw cash around 9 a.m. Monday. He was escorted by another man who bank employees noticed watching the elderly man through binoculars.
Employees at the bank, where the elderly man is a regular customer, alerted police and other area banks.
Salisbury Police contacted the elderly man’s relatives, who did not recognize the man with him at the bank given his description.
Police issued a silver alert, a warning that goes out when an elderly person is missing.
Whitley said the elderly man later went to Wal-Mart and grocery stores, accompanied by young women, and bought food and cigarettes. The suspects had the man write checks for more than the amount of the purchase and took the cash, which they used to buy crack cocaine, police said.
“They shuffled him around throughout the day,” Whitley said.
Around 5 p.m., the suspects took the man to a bank branch in China Grove, where they were nearly intercepted by authorities. The suspects left the man at the bank and took off.
“He was not harmed,” Whitley said. “He was disoriented.”
Though none of the suspects is related to the man, police said, they had somehow convinced him they were family, and their scam had been ongoing.
“This is not the first time they interacted with him,” Whitley said. “They had been taking advantage of him.”
Officers found the man’s car at an area mobile home park. Police then chased one of the suspects. The vehicle pursuit began at Reamer Circle and Old Concord Road and reached speeds of more than 90 mph.
After 15-20 minutes, the chase ended at 415 White Crane Drive. The driver, Wayne Morgan Coley Jr., 31, of 420 Romana Drive, Salisbury, is charged with felony fleeing to elude arrest. A passenger getting a ride from Coley was not charged.
Police have identified multiple suspects and anticipate more charges, Whitley said.
He praised F&M Bank personnel for knowing something was not right and alerting authorities.