Ormond Beach women have been victims.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has issued a scam alert and is asking the public to be on the lookout for a handyman scam artist who has taken more than $20,000 from several victims the past 30 days. The most recent is a 78-year-old woman who has an Ormond Beach address but is in county jurisdiction near South Nova Road and Fleming Avenue. There has also been a report of an 85-year-old Ormond Beach woman who was victimized, according to a Sheriff’s office spokesman
Russell Bannister, 44, is suspected in the case. He is wanted on charges of exploiting the elderly, organized scheme to defraud and grand theft, the spokesman said. All of the known victims have been between the ages of 70 and 85. Police in Edgewater and Daytona Beach are investigating cases that occurred in their cities.
The Ormond Beach woman called police on June 12 and said that the suspect had stolen money from her home in the Holiday Village Mobile Home Park.
The victim had met the suspect on June 8 when he knocked on her door and identified himself as a handyman. She invited him inside, and the suspect gave an estimate to paint, repair and install new flooring in the victim’s home. He said he needed a $1,100 up-front payment for materials, so the victim went to her bedroom, got cash and paid him.
He said the material would be delivered to her home, from a local store, but an investigation showed he never ordered it.
He left behind a business card with the name of Russell Bannister and “Hurricane Handyman.”
Returning for more
The suspect showed up unannounced at the victim’s home on June 12, claiming he couldn’t reach her by phone, the victim said. Once inside her home, he told the victim to walk outside with her telephone while he called her to test her phone service. She walked out to the end of the driveway and returned to the house after the suspect told her there were no issues with the phone. After 10 minutes, he left in a dark-colored car.
Later, the victim discovered her remaining $6,900 in cash was missing from her bedroom. It was in 10 bank envelopes on her bedside table, so she called police.
The victim immediately picked Bannister out of a photo lineup.
On June 15, the suspect pulled up to the victim’s home. He had called earlier in the morning and insisted on coming to her house. He fled after seeing a deputy’s patrol car, and during a chase, abandoned his rental car and ran away on foot. After a search by patrol units, K-9 and helicopter, the suspect could not be located.
Bannister has no permanent local address. He is listed as 6 feet tall, 220 pounds with brown hair and green eyes.
Other active fraud/theft investigations involving Bannister in Volusia County include a Daytona Beach case of an 84-year-old male victim, and two Edgewater Police Department cases, both involving women over 70. Bannister and an accomplice are suspected of offering to pressure wash or paint the victim’s home for a price, but instead stealing cash and checks and never even starting the work, the police spokesman said.
Investigation showed that the suspect is not listed as a contractor and holds no professional license in the state.
Investigators are asking any other victims of Bannister’s scam to contact law enforcement to report their cases. Anyone who has information about any of these cases or knows Bannister’s whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center at 248-1777, or Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida, toll-free, at 888-277-TIPS.
Citizens can also text their tip by texting TIP231 plus their message to CRIMES. Anyone who provides information to Crime Stoppers will remain anonymous and can qualify for a reward of up to $5,000.