Park Ridge police: Man may have scammed dozens with fake-business scheme
David Ray Wooten has been charged with four counts of felony theft and one count of misdemeanor theft. (Park Ridge Police Department photo)
Police said they picked up David Ray Wooten, 63, of the 2600 block of Berwyn Avenue, in March outside a shopping center in the 6500 block of Diversey. Two months later, investigators charged him with four counts of felony theft and one count of misdemeanor theft, according to Park Ridge police.
Those charges are only related to alleged crimes committed in Park Ridge, said Deputy Chief Lou Jogmen, but more charges could be filed. Police said they believe there could be as many as 100 victims in at least four states – Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri.
The Des Plaines police department identified Wooten as possibly being involved in incidents stretching back to 2007, Jogmen said.
Wooten is believed to have followed a pattern of establishing a fake liquidation company in an office complex. In early August of 2012, he set up such a company – using the name of an alleged previous victim – in an office building in the 350 block of South Northwest Highway in Park Ridge, Jogmen said.
“His goal was to set up shop somewhere (and) make it look credible,” Jogmen said. Each time he moved, Wooten would print business cards using the name of a past victim, Jogmen said.
He’d post an ad on Craigslist seeking clerical help, Jogmen said, and would have the employee set up bank accounts, make deposits and write up contracts with clients who didn’t exist. That employee was not paid for work performed, Jogmen said.
Jogmen said Wooten’s real goal was to establish relationships and inspire trust in employees of other companies in the same office complex. Once he established that trust, he allegedly conned them out of vehicles, sports memorabilia, artwork and cash, Jogmen said.
Wooten would tell people he needed loans for his liquidation business, or say he was interested in buying artwork from them or the car they were selling in the office parking lot, Jogmen said. He never paid for the merchandise, police said, or repaid any loan.
“It was all stories,” Jogmen said. “It was truly elaborate. He set these things all in motion separately, and then had them all culminate before he left.”
Police found thousands of dollars in merchandise in a basement storage locker of Wooten’s home, Jogmen said. Items included pieces of artwork, a framed Chicago Cubs championship poster from 1907 and a Dan Marino-autographed football.
Approximately $100,000 in merchandise has already been recovered, Jogmen said, but just how many items and how much money Wooten allegedly bilked from his victims is still being determined.
Possible victims are still coming forward, Jogmen said. Those who think they might have encountered Wooten should contact Park Ridge police at 847-318-5252.