Johnson City Press Monday, October 20, 2014

Crime Erwin

Unicoi Co. sheriff warns of annual visit by paving, painting scammers

March 21st, 2014 4:36 pm by Brad Hicks

Unicoi Co. sheriff warns of annual visit by paving, painting scammers

ERWIN — Winter is officially over, which is welcome news to the many clamoring for the longer days and warmer weather of spring.

But on the first day of the new season, Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley shared his concerns over one of the less-desirable aspects of spring. On Thursday, Hensley said the Irish Travelers may soon make their return to Unicoi County, as they typically do this time of year.

“I just want to make the public aware that if anyone shows up wanting to do paving, barn painting, house painting, etc., they need to make sure they are a licensed contractor from a reputable company,” Hensley said. “These people have been in this business for a long time. ... They’re scammers.”

Hensley said there have not been any sightings of the Irish Travelers in Unicoi County, but he said they have been seen in Washington County.

The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department has dealt with the group for a number of years. According to officials, contractors with the Irish Travelers, a group based out of South Carolina, make an annual stop in Unicoi County as they travel the interstate on their way north.

Officials previously said these “transient contractors” go door-to-door soliciting work to do jobs such as sealing driveways and painting homes and barns, and offering lower prices for such work.

But Hensley said the materials used by these contractors is substandard, and they prefer to deal in cash, often offering better deals for those willing to pay it, as cash makes them more difficult to track down. Contractors with the Irish Travelers also typically present customers with bills higher than initial price quotes, police said.

Anyone observing suspicious activity is asked to contact the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department at 743-1864 or 743-1850. 

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