Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CCSO Probe Leads To Bogus Handyman Arrest In Arizona

With the help of dogged detective work by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, a man who has eluded authorities in several states is in custody in Arizona, charged with theft and fraud-related crimes in Collier County and Arizona.

Charles Robert Morgan, 52, was arrested Monday at the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, Ariz., on a Collier County warrant charging him with stealing more than $25,000 worth of property from the residence of a North Naples man who hired him to do handyman work in March.

Morgan has been in the Coconino jail since his May 5 arrest after detectives with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office notified the Flagstaff Police Department that Morgan was possibly conducting his handyman scam in Flagstaff.

“He’s a naturally traveling criminal,” said Sgt. Brian Sawyer of CCSO’s General Crimes Bureau, which is investigating the North Naples case and other incidents possibly linked to Morgan. “His presence can be established in more than a dozen states.”

Detectives say Morgan posted advertisements on Craigslist looking for work as a handyman. After he arrived at homes and the occupants left, he stole items and then took them to pawn shops.

Detectives say Morgan took the items he stole from the North Naples residence to pawn shops in several states on his way to Arizona.

CCSO detectives gave this account of the events leading to Morgan’s arrest:

The North Naples victim hired Morgan through an advertisement on Craigslist. The posting was for general handyman /home repair work. Morgan told the man his name was Mark Atwell and that he was from Tennessee. The victim allowed Morgan to work in his residence unsupervised from March 25 to March 27.

When the victim returned to his residence March 28, he discovered his 2008 Toyota Tundra pickup as well as firearms, televisions, jewelry, power tools, game systems, identification and other items were missing. Morgan was nowhere to be found.

The victim told CCSO detectives that Morgan had been driving an early model red Ford Ranger pickup with a Tennessee license plate. The truck also had a homemade wood bed.

Through an indirect citizen tip, detectives found a pickup that matched the description given by the victim abandoned at the YMCA Norris Aquatic Center, 13275 Livingston Road, on April 25.

Detectives discovered the vehicle was registered to a Charles R. Morgan with an address in California. The vehicle registration had been suspended as of Dec. 11, 2008. They also learned that the Tennessee plate was registered to a man with a Nashville address. The man had the same name as the one Morgan gave to the North Naples victim: Mark Atwell.

When detectives contacted the man about the recovered license plate, he told them that he had been victimized in November 2010 by a man he hired through Craigslist to perform handyman work at his home. The handyman, who identified himself as Charlie Morgan, stole jewelry, cash and checkbooks and attempted to pass several checks.

It appeared that both victims had not only had work done on their residences, but were somewhat befriended by Morgan’s personal demeanor.

Thorough investigation by CCSO detectives found an ad for handyman services in the Flagstaff area posted on Craigslist on May 2 that was similar to the ads in Florida and Tennessee.

It appeared as if Morgan had relocated to Flagstaff and was advertising in a manner to possibly commit further crimes. CCSO detectives notified Flagstaff police of this new development.

Flagstaff police researched local pawn records and turned up items stolen in the North Naples theft that had been pawned under the name Mark Atwell.

Flagstaff police conducted their own operation and arrested Morgan on May 5, charging him with theft, identity fraud, and property related crimes in their jurisdiction. He was found in possession of the North Naples victim’s stolen vehicle, stolen identification and other stolen items.

Working with the State Attorney’s Office of the 20th Judicial Circuit, CCSO has obtained an active arrest warrant for Charles Morgan for those crimes he perpetrated in Collier County.

“The nuances of this investigation demonstrate that subjects who commit crimes in Collier County and flee the area are still susceptible to identification, apprehension, and ultimately being held accountable for their crimes,” Sgt. Sawyer said.

Law enforcement jurisdictions will work conjunctively with each other to ensure predatory criminals are prosecuted for their crimes and they are not able to take advantage of unassuming citizens, Sgt. Sawyer added.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is concerned that more victims of Charles Morgan’s criminal enterprise may exist from his presence in Collier County. Please contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239. 252.9300 if you think you may be a victim. Please contact the Sheriff’s Office or CRIMESTOPPERS at (800) 780-TIPS if you have any additional information that may relate to this incident.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office offers these tips to residents considering hiring someone to do work on their home:

* Know who is coming in and around your residence. Only allow people you are comfortable with or companies you are comfortable with to perform work in compromising areas of your house.

* Conduct thorough research on subjects you intend to hire to include business licenses and references.

* Try to stay home with, and within eye and ear distance, of people who are allowed to work within your house.

* Do not provide long-term access items for your residence to any companies; to include keys, security codes, and knowledge of hidden locations of access items.

* Obtain identifiable information on all people who are allowed into your residence that you must leave alone.

* Keep all of you valuables, sentimental and/or financial, in a secondary secure location that only authorized people have access.

Click here to watch a CCSO video on protecting yourself from residential theft.