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Star-Telegram.com

Scam artist sells plywood TVs in Arlington

Posted Saturday, Jul. 23, 2011

By Mitch Mitchell

mitchmitchell@star-telegram.com

ARLINGTON -- The flat-screen TVs looked real, and the price seemed too good to be true.

They were labeled $1,999, but the man was selling them for $300 each.

Shanae Johnson said she talked the man -- who was selling them out of a Cadillac in a south Arlington parking lot -- down $50 and bought two for $500.

"We were really happy because we got such a good deal," said Tim Johnson, her husband. "When it was wrapped in bubble wrap, it appeared to be exactly what it was purported to be, a real flat-screen TV. But when you unwrapped it, it was just plywood."

The salesman would not give Shanae Johnson a phone number, Tim Johnson said. Shanae Johnson also tried to get the license plate number from the car hauling the televisions, but the man said she should leave if she needed that.

The price of the TVs, coupled with the salesman's reluctance to share any personal information, should have been a red flag, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Shae Moore, communications coordinator for the bureau's Fort Worth office, said that if a deal seems too good to be true, consumers should call the bureau.

It can help research the seller and check for prior complaints, Moore said. The bureau can also warn others via Facebook and Twitter if it spots a scam trend in an area, Moore said.

Arlington police Sgt. Dace Clifton said it's best to buy electronics at authorized retailers.

"There will be risks anytime you use an unlicensed retailer," Clifton said. "You could buy a defective product."

Or, in the Johnsons' case, a fake product.

The scam artist even went to the trouble of including a remote control and labels that mimic those used at legitimate stores.

"We just wanted to let people know that this is going on," Tim Johnson said. "We don't want anyone else to fall victim to this. There was another woman in the parking lot trying to buy one of these at the same time my wife was out there. It looked like he had five or six of them in the car."

The scam occurred about 8 p.m. Wednesday in the 4600 block of South Cooper Street in a shopping center parking lot, according to a police report.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

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