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A still from the British version of "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding," a documentary that looks inside the Irish Traveller community. Photo by: Chanel 4

Police warn North Carolina residents of Irish Traveller scam artists

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A still from the British version of "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding," a documentary that looks inside the Irish Traveller community. Photo by: Chanel 4

The Sherriff’s office of Lincoln County, North Carolina has warned the state's residents to beware “Irish Travellers” targeting homeowners with quick home repair scams and burglary. The con-men travel to the Charlotte area annually and target the elderly.

The transient contractors are based in North Augusta, SC and have now been seen in Lincoln County. The authorities report that the group has been spotted in Boger City, but no further incidents have been reported.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said the Irish Travellers are using door-to-door high-pressure sales tactics for driveway blacktopping or sealing, roof work or painting. They drive utility trucks with North Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia plates.

The Irish Travellers have traveled to the Charlotte area every spring for years, reports NBC Charlotte.
Last year an elderly woman in Gastonia was conned out of $1,900 by the Travellers, who never carried out the work they had promised to do, according to the Gaston County Police Sergeant Myron Shelor.

He told NBC, “Their work tends to be very shoddy, very crude or they may not finish it at all.

“Or, they get close to the end and say we went over, so it's going to cost you more and demand more money and strong-arm people for more money.  They typically want cash only and don't take any other kind of payments.”

He explained that they target the elderly and have broken into homes when the owners have been distracted by the repairs. They do not sign contracts, give references, or phone numbers, or stick around.

This type of fraud is not uncommon among the Irish Travellers group. Last year 30 people were arrested, in eight countries across Europe, by Europol. They were believed to be part of the “Rathkeale Rovers” Irish Travellers, from Limerick. They were arrested for their involvement in counterfeit products, tarmac fraud, robbery, money laundering, and drug trafficking across the Americas, Asia and Australia.

Europol, the European Uunion's police agency, described them as a “highly organized crime group.”

Similarly, in Sweden, reports emerged of the “tarmac cowboys” who were forcing British men to work in slave-like conditions.

Project Troy, an organization working with these men, said “Many homeowners around Sweden report the same thing: the knock on the door and a well-dressed English-speaking man offering to pave the driveway.

“The work is often left incomplete or poorly done and such workers have been dubbed the 'tarmac cowboys.'"

America’s Traveller community has also been recently in the spotlight due to TLC’s reality TV show “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding,” which features Irish Traveller families as well as Romani gypsies. The show aims to go inside the communities and look at their old customs and lifestyles. 

Many Irish Travellers live in the south, especially around the town of Murphy in Georgia.

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