Police cut down shady tree service
February 02, 2011 - Evidently crime does pay, albeit for a short time before law enforcement gets involved.
|Lonnie Jenkins Jr. (click for larger version)|
Lonnie Wade Jenkins, a 52-year-old area resident and owner of L & L Tree & Landscaping Service, alledgedly extorted a large sum of money from an 86-year-old Village of Lake Orion woman.
His acquisition came as part of a confidence trick that saw him arraigned in 52-3 District Court Jan. 4 on felony charges of "embezzlement from a vulnerable adult."
On May 15, 2010, Jenkins was doing tree removal work next door to his eventual victim, who was waiting for a ride outside her home.
Jenkins approached the woman, asking if her husband was home. When the victim replied that her husband was deceased, Jenkins claimed trees on her property were suffering from a disease that would make them prone to collapsing, and recommended having them removed.
The victim, fearing a tree would fall on her home, agreed to have the trees taken out, at which point Jenkins quoted the job at between $14,850 and $16,000 - around $5,000 per tree. The home he was working at prior to contacting the victim paid $700 per tree removed.
The daughter of the victim found out about the transaction later the same day.
"[My mother] started describing what happened, and about two checks that had been cashed earlier," said the daughter, who asked not to be identified for the sake of her mother's safety.
"The checks had been signed to Lonnie Jenkins Jr., not his tree service, nor his company."
The victim's daughter added that during a trip to the bank to withdraw additional funds for the job, Jenkins asked his grandma to accompany the victim. Police investigating the matter believe he was attempting to ease suspicion at the bank, as bank tellers are taught to be aware of people taking advantage of vulnerable elders.
Police Chief Jerry Narsh said fear is often used when attempting to defraud vulnerable elders.
"He stated the trees were diseased, and later her statement to us was that she feared one of these trees could fall on her house," said Narsh. "When he first approached her, he said he would give her a discount if she signed for the service before noon and while his laborers were still next door.
"He created fear to get her to follow his directions immediately."
Narsh said cases involving elder fraud are difficult to investigate because many times the victim does not remember the details. Citing the current case, Narsh said it took from May, when the incident occurred, to December to get a warrant for Jenkins's arrest.
Narsh also added that he is asking residents who know of any elderly person who recently had trees removed to check the company or individual's name, as well as the price of the service, and contact local police if they believe something is awry.
Jenkins was released after his initial arraignment on $5,000 personal bond. His next scheduled court hearing is on Thursday, Feb. 3 for a preliminary exam.