SPRING HILL — Three months ago, a man knocked on the door of a home in Spring Hill.
An elderly woman answered, authorities say. The man told her the house's roof needed repairs and that he could do the work for no more than $80.
The roof had no problems that the woman knew of, but she trusted him and agreed to the deal.
Two men soon arrived. One went on the roof; the other stayed down and talked with the woman — most likely, investigators say, to distract her.
After an hour and a half, the men said the work was done. The job, they told her, would cost $321.
The woman felt pressured, authorities say, so she agreed to pay. She wrote a check to a man authorities say they later identified as Leonard Lovell, a 42-year-old from Alabama.
Investigators say the suspects cashed the check almost immediately.
Soon after, the woman's son came to her home and noticed that the men had done no work on her roof.
She had been swindled.
That kind of operation, officials said, is typically referred to as a "gypsy scam." Often, people come from out of state and target elderly residents by soliciting work, such as roof or driveway repairs. The scammers then perform little or no work, collect the money and leave the area.
Lovell, who remains at large, has a history of performing similar scams in Georgia, officials said.
Hernando County Sheriff's Office investigators believe the Spring Hill woman is not Lovell's only victim in the area. They asked anyone who might have been scammed in a similar fashion to contact detectives at (352) 797-3728.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.