Durham police search for "flim-flam" suspects for a second time

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comNovember 13, 2013 

— Police are on the hunt again for two men arrested and charged last week with running several “flim-flam” schemes in recent months.

Charles Henry Arms, 73, and Ramee Shabazz, 57, both of Charlotte, were arrested last week and charged with felony conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretense. Both were later released from the Durham County jail after posting bond.

Now, police – armed with additional fraud charges – are searching for the pair again.

In a news release issued Wednesday, investigators said Arms and Shabazz were operating variations of a con game called “the pigeon drop.”

The scam requires convincing a victim to give up some “good faith” money in order to be able to get a larger amount of money later. The scammers take the money, leaving the victim with nothing. Flim-flam artists in pigeon drops usually work in pairs, the news release stated.

Two incidents reported to police both took place at a Walmart store on Glenn School Road, according to police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

In the first case, reported Sept. 27, a man claiming to be an African refugee approached a female and told her he had inherited $150,000 but couldn’t take it back to his country because he would be killed. The man told the woman his deceased relative wanted him to donate the money to an “African Baptist Church” and he needed her help.

A second man approached 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 at the same location. 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, two men fitting the descriptions of Shabazz and Arms were spotted in the same area and police learned the men were seen inside a silver Mercedes, but had left.

Investigators later spotted them near Walmart on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The two men were in the company of an elderly woman, who told detectives the men had approached her about a bag filled with money in the parking lot.

Police charged Arms with two counts each of felony conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretense, Shabazz was charged with one count each of the offenses, Michael reported.

Both have prior felony records and use several aliases. Police searched the silver Mercedes the men were traveling in and found stacks of paper cut to the size of dollar bills, along with letters similar to those used in “Nigerian Advance Fee Scams,” Michael reported.

Since the men posted bond, investigators have taken out additional charges of attempting to obtain property by false pretense and felony conspiracy against both.

Police are asking anyone with information on their whereabouts to call 919-560-4440, ext. 29313 or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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