Freeman Davis, owner of Davis Tree Service, was arrested Sept. 8 for two counts of felony forgery. The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Cherokee Village Police Department that began in July.
Freeman Davis, 42, of Mammoth Spring was arrested after two residents of Cherokee Village discovered checks they had written to Davis for tree work had been altered.
According to a report obtained from the Cherokee Village Police Department, Detective Shane Hightower was contacted by Sheila Wiles with First National Banking Company (FNBC) about turning over paperwork regarding a suspected forgery in which their customer was the victim.
Wiles told Hightower that Katherine DeHann Goff, 97, of Cherokee Village had hired Davis to perform yard work for her and she had written him two checks. Wiles said one check was for $200 and the other for $400. Wiles told the detective that the checks had each been altered by $1,000.
Hightower observed the two checks, both written out to Freeman Davis, and noticed the word "teen" out of place on the check which Goff had written for $400 making it appear to be for $1,400. On the other check for $200, Hightower said he could see the "o" behind the "e" where it had been altered to be $1,200.
After advising Hightower of the locations of the banks where the respective checks were cashed, Hightower obtained subpoenas from the prosecutor's office for the surveillance tapes at both Liberty Bank and Simmon's Bank.
After reviewing tapes at each bank it was discovered that a male driver of a large white extended cab truck cashed the checks in question at both locations.
The report said that on July 10, a person who appeared to be Davis when compared to his driver's license photo and vehicle description, deposited a check for $150 and cashed a $1,200 check at the drive through window at Liberty Bank.
A person resembling the subject in the Liberty Bank surveillance tape also deposited a $1,400 check, taking $250 in cash from it at the Simmon's Bank drive through on June 23. The suspect was also driving the same vehicle as in the Liberty Bank incident.
Hightower's report said he contacted Goff on Aug. 7 and she told him that Davis continued to come to her home, at times walking into the home where she lives alone unannounced. Goff advised Hightower she had been keeping her doors locked to keep him out of her home. He said he would contact Davis about not returning to her home.
In Hightower's report he states that the same afternoon he contacted Davis and asked him to come to the Cherokee Village Police Department to discuss a complaint. The report said that Davis became defensive and hesitant to speak to the detective. Hightower told Davis he couldn't force him to talk to him and Davis did not come to the office.
On Aug. 10, Cherokee Village Police Chief Ricky Crook and Detective Hightower interviewed Davis about the checks. Davis was shown the two checks. He said that Goff kept adding work once they began the job and showed them a receipt for the check, which was numbered #5159 for $400 and a second receipt for $1,000 for the same check number. Neither receipt was signed by Goff.
During the interview, Davis offered to go pay Goff back, at which time Davis was advised that FNBC was the victim, not Goff.
Later the same day, Rita Newman, a FNBC employee, contacted the Cherokee Village Police Department and informed them that Davis had contacted the bank and offered to pay the full amount back to the bank.
On Aug. 13, Hightower met with another victim who also claimed that a check written to Davis for tree service had been altered by $1,000.
Arthur Koski, of Cherokee Village told detectives that on June 25 he had paid Davis $400 for tree work. Koski said after reviewing his bank records he observed the check had been tampered with to reflect the amount of $1,400. He said the bank asked him to contact Davis about the check. When the victim contacted Davis he offered to pay Koski back in two $500 installments. Davis told Koski that he owed his friend money and gave the $400 check to him and that his friend must have altered it. Koski allowed Davis to make the payments to repay the money.
According to records obtained from Cherokee Village's code enforcement office, Davis, who also does roof and construction work has been issued warnings on several occasions regarding disregarding building codes and city ordinances in respect to not having a proper business permit and violating codes. Charles Deloach, Cherokee Village Building Inspector said that although Davis was warned, he corrected the issues when he asked him each time.
Davis was warned by letter from code enforcement on June 14, 2006, and in both March and July of 2004. In one incident, Davis took out a permit to perform work on a home in the homeowner's name without permission from the person.
Davis' victims have generally been elderly individuals who live in Cherokee Village.
Officials say the best way to protect against this type of fraud is to request receipts from anyone who performs a service or sale and make certain the receipts are both signed and dated. Another good practice is to carefully review bank records for any discrepancy in amount and report any suspected errors to the local police department. Reputable business owner's will be glad to show customer's proof of insurance prior to performing work. Homeowners may also request written estimates prior to allowing any type of work to be performed on their property. Be especially aware of a business who attempts to contact a person to repay an amount that may have been altered or fraudulently obtained to the owner.
Davis was arrested by Sharp County Detective Ken Guidry and charged with two counts of felony forgery. Davis was released on his own recognizance by District Judge Mark Johnson on Sept. 8. Davis' next appearance is set for Oct. 29 at Sharp County District Court.