GREENVILLE — Judge Jonathan Hein sentenced the Craigslist scammer at the Darke County Common Pleas Court to pay restitution and community sanctions.
In the past the scammer would receive prison time, now community sanctions would be the outcome because it is a white collar crime, the judge explained. Although the judge added that he would like to send Cameron to prison, the warden would send Cameron back to the community, because they believe it isn’t a violent crime and not worth the state’s resources.
William S. Cameron, 54, of Lancaster, was sentenced on a fourth degree felony theft charge after defrauding more than 30 victims out of more than $10,000 in different states. Eleven victims are from Ohio, one from Darke County. According to the indictment, Cameron used Craigslist to target individuals between June 22 and Nov. 23, 2013. The victims purchased items like sports tickets, auto parts and farm equipment.
The judge ordered Cameron to pay court costs and he could work it off with community service hours. Cameron is already being supervised by three other courts and served 111 days in jail, will have to pay $587 in restitution to the victim and be released to Columbus, he said.
“Mr. Cameron is not a newbie to the system with misdemeanor and felony offenses,” Judge Hein said, noting that he has unemployment history and health issues, but he was cooperative during the interview process.
Marianne Hemmeter, Deputy Director for the Ohio Attorney General’s office previously said that the amounts are so low but total more than $10,000, so the Attorney General grouped them together for grand theft. The charge then became a fourth degree felony theft, according to court documents.
“The recidivism factors are there,” Hemmeter told the court. Cameron has convictions with felonies and misdemeanors like passing bad checks and forgeries.
Attorney for Cameron, Randall Breaden, believes that Cameron’s financial crimes are “white collar” and community sanctions would be appropriate. He said that Cameron did it, not for drugs, but for basic life sustenance like food and shelter. He also asked that Cameron be released, because he already served jail time.
Cameron apologized to the court for the offenses and said he would work to pay back the victims.
Les Crowell, of Greenville, was the Darke County victim in the Craigslist scam. He said that he checked his background and asked about his bad checks while waiting for his delivery of a cooler. He realized after a few months that he was scammed, and talked to his wife about doing some work that never panned out, too. He put the word out about Cameron and got emails from the others. He wanted justice and referred to Cameron as a “scum bag.” Crowell said he has purchased things online before and this was the first time he was ripped off.
“I don’t think working is his forte. I think he’s ripping people off,” Les Crowell of Greenville told the court.
Hemmeter and Aaron Crawford of the Economic Crimes Unit for the Ohio Attorney General Office, explained that even though they won this case, people should not send checks in the mail and use common sense when dealing with online purchases from individuals. The office also works on cases for construction and telecommunications scams.
“If I can’t drive to it, lay my eyes on it, I’m not going to buy it,” advised Crawford of online sales from individuals.
Legitimate online transactions are safer on sites like eBay and Amazon, Hemmeter said. Seniors tend to get scammed, but it affects people of all ages.
“You need to be vigilant and do your homework,” Hemmeter said if you haven’t dealt with the buyer or seller before.
Crowell, a senior, concluded saying that it is important to not let scammers get away with the crimes and he thought he did check out the seller.
“If you get scammed, do everything possible to track the scammer down, so they so they can be brought to justice, even if the penalty isn’t equal to the crime. Do your due diligence,” Crowell said.