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Lawton Residents Victims of Painting Scam

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LAWTON Okla_ The Salvation Army is alerting the public about an address painting scam that has targeted several Lawton residents in the past three weeks.

Captain Ernie Hull said about six months ago, the organization agreed to let a local painting company donate a portion of their address painting proceeds to the charity. They even printed flyers depicting the partnership, but one of the company's employees went rogue, and started taking money from clients without finishing the work.

Captain Hull said he's received about three calls in the past three weeks, but the man who hired the alleged crook said just when he thought that was it, more calls came in. He said he received a call Wednesday from another victim. The deal was for each painting sold, which costs about $20, $5 would be donated to the charity. Over the past three weeks though, that never happened.

The picturesque address signs can be seen in just about any neighborhood around town. Who would have thought they would ever be at the center of a scam?

Hull said about three weeks ago, he started receiving disturbing calls from paying customers about work not being completed.

"One gentleman said that he'd written a $25 check made out to the gentlemen, so we know his name," Hull said. "We've been calling the police, because he cashed it. Hopefully, the police can find this individual and get him arrested."

Steven Smith has been running his painting company for over a year and said he was shocked when he'd heard what had happened.

"I was more than unhappy and upset about it, because that's not the way I do business," Smith said.

He said hindsight is 20/20, but he admits he should have been more careful about who he hires.

Smith said he found his former employee at an Alcoholics Anonymous center on "F" avenue about six weeks ago. He said from the start, he seemed like a "go getter" who wanted to turn his life around. In fact, he even sold four address paintings his first day on the job. A few weeks later, things went south.

Smith said he hasn't seen the man since the complaints started coming in and has no way to reach him. He and Hull say the alleged crook is the lowest of the low.

"They're folks that have few, if any, morals at all," Hull said. "They don't care who they hurt, as long as there's personal gain in it."

"They ought to be locked up and thrown in the penitentiary forever, as far as I am concerned," Smith said.

Captain Hull said one of the victims is going to file a police report. 7News has discovered the man in question had been arrested for grand larceny back in March. Hull said he wants everyone to know that the Salvation Army has nothing to do with any addresses that are painted from here on out. Smith said he plans on repainting any of the work that was not completed.

Captain Hull said a $5 donation may not seem like much, but it goes a long way.

"I guarantee you, I squeeze every penny until Lincoln screams," Hull said. "$5 represents a meal in my soup kitchen that I can't give someone because of not having that money."

Hull is urging anyone who has been a victim of this scam to call the Lawton Police Department.

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