A Mulberry couple face fraud charges after deputies said they attempted to scam a store owner out of $100 under the guise of raising funds for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Earl Lee Tournear, 46, and Heather Lea Lockyer, 41, both of 147 10th Drive N.W., were arrested Tuesday night. Tournear faces a charge of impersonating an officer. He and Lockyer faces charges of petit theft, fraudulent charitable solicitation and fraud.
According to deputies, Tournear called the Sunoco store at 1285 N. Church Ave., Mulberry, at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday and told the clerk he was “Officer Rogers” trying to “raise funds” for the sheriff’s office. Deputies said the clerk recognized the voice as being a regular customer named “Earl” and transfered the call to store owner Joseman Thathamkulam.
Thathamkulam agreed to donate $100 but was advised “only cash or a cashier’s check” could be accepted, a sheriff’s report said.
The owner became suspicious and requested the donation be collected at the store. The caller said he would send a “female employee” to collect because he was busy at a fundraiser at a tent on State Road 37, the report said. Due to the suspicious nature of the call, a store clerk traveled to that location and found there was no fundraiser tent.
Lockyer later arrived and said she was there to collect the donation, the report said. Lockyer, who was recognized by a clerk as a regular customer married to “Earl,” had a receipt book and decals that appeared to be associated with the sheriff’s office, the report said.
A clerk told Lockyer that the owner would have to make the donation. Although Thathamkulam was in a back room, Lockyer was told he was not present, the report said.
Lockyer left the store in a white Dodge Charger.
Shortly after, “Officer Rogers” called back six to eight times over a five-minute period asking if the owner had returned, the report said.
Thathamkulam then called authorities.
As the call was being investigated, detectives located the Dodge and initiated a traffic stop with Lockyer and Tournear inside.
Detectives learned Tournear is employed by Onit Enterprise as a telemarketer, selling ad space to businesses on behalf of organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police. However, Onit Enterprise told detectives Tournear has never been authorized to contact Polk businesses or collect donations.
Lockyer is not employed by Onit Enterprise.