Point man accused of bilking senior citizen out of $71,000

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

July 27, 2007 - A man alleged to have scammed an elderly Hopkins County resident out of $71,000 was arrested early this morning on two felony charges.

James Edward “Jim” Pruitt, 62, of Point was located at 3:45 a.m. this morning by Hopkins County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Evans and Deputy Dennis Findley, as well as several Rains County deputies who were assisting in the effort to find the wanted man.

Over a five-month period, Pruitt is believed to have impersonated a public servant in an effort to obtain money from an elderly resident on FM 1567.

According to investigators, he approached the elderly man in March, claiming to be an environmental official sent to the area. He claimed the victim’s driveway emitted a hazardous substance and needed repair to make it safe. He asked for a large fee for spraying a substance on the driveway, even though there was no apparent sign any work had been done, Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum said Friday. 

Pruitt then is believed to have gone on to persuade the senior citizen to let him install lightning rods at the residence, charging a large sum of money not proportionate to the job, officers noted.

During the course of the last five months, Pruitt is alleged to have obtained cash and checks totaling $71,000, according to offense reports.

The man’s daughter contacted sheriff’s officers after discovering the large sums paid for Pruitt’s “services,” and an investigation was launched. Pruitt was identified as the suspect and a warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday morning. Sheriff's deputies and Rains County authorities began searching for Pruitt around lunch time Thursday.

He was found on Industrial Drive early this morning, taken into custody and interviewed by  Tatum at the sheriff’s office. He admitted to taking the man’s money, and that “he knew better” when he was committing the acts, Tatum said Friday morning.

He remained in the county jail Friday morning on charges of impersonating a public servant, a third-degree felony, and securing execution of a document by deception, a second-degree felony, according to jail reports.

Sheriff's officers encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a scam to contact local authorities to have the matter checked out by law enforcement officials.

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