Seven Irish Travelers charged with fraud

The Augusta Chronicle/June 1, 2001
By Katie Throne

North Augusta -- A group of Irish Travelers will go to federal court in Aiken next week on charges that they defrauded an Atlanta car dealership, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Ruschky said Mary Gorman Mack, Ann M. Carroll and Catherine Mary Riley, named in an indictment with four other residents of the Murphy Village community, used fraudulent income tax returns as proof of income to finance cars from Jim Ellis Volkswagen Inc.

The three women have a hearing June 11, he said.

Two of those indicted, Nora A. Sherlock and Tommy J. Sherlock, pleaded guilty April 25 to using false information to finance a 1999 Chevrolet Corvette, which they later falsely reported stolen and collected insurance on.

''Hypothetically, if you have financed a car and you don't want to make the payments anymore, you arrange to have it stolen,'' Mr. Ruschky said. ''When you report it stolen and get a police report and forward that to an insurance company, the insurance company pays off what's owed on the car. If there's any extra, it goes to the insured.''

The couple have not been sentenced but each could face up to 10 years in prison.

The other Travelers named in the indictments, Tommy J. Mack and Bryan G. Gorman, became fugitives after being released on $25,000 bonds, he said.

The FBI and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office worked together to build a case against the North Augusta residents, said Mr. Ruschky, who opened the investigation in September 2000. The probe is continuing, he said.

All of the vehicles involved, including a Corvette and three pickup trucks, were obtained from Jim Ellis Volkswagen in Atlanta in 1998 and 1999, the assistant U.S. attorney said. Authorities say the vehicles were financed after the suspects used fictitious companies, such as Carroll Paint Contracting Co., as cover in a scheme to defraud.

Irish Travelers are members of a reclusive community of about 2,000 who are descended from 19th-century Irish peddlers. Many live in Murphy Village, a community of lavish houses and mobile homes along U.S. Highway 25 near the boundary between Aiken and Edgefield counties.

State Attorney General Charlie Condon has targeted Irish Travelers in the past, prosecuting members on truancy and fraud charges and publicizing indictments and convictions.

In December 1999, three Irish Travelers were sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to insurance fraud in an Aiken courtroom.

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