Alleged scam victims speak out

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An Augusta woman used her connections with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and charitable organizations to perpetuate a scam that cost friends and co-workers across the area thousands of dollars, according to those claiming to be victims.

Cynthia O'Tyson: Augusta woman, who was once convicted on forgery and theft charges, might have deceived hundreds of people in Richmond and Columbia counties, police say.  Special
Special
Cynthia O'Tyson: Augusta woman, who was once convicted on forgery and theft charges, might have deceived hundreds of people in Richmond and Columbia counties, police say.

Police have yet to tally a final count, but they said hundreds of people in Richmond and Columbia counties might have been deceived into giving Cynthia O'Tyson money.

It was a scam that sustained itself on the goodwill that Ms. O'Tyson had accumulated in the years since her first arrest on similar charges, police said.

In the scam, which investigators now say involved almost $300,000, perhaps more, Ms. O'Tyson used people in her church and the numerous civic organizations in which she served, including the Columbia County chamber, to pass along information about her falsified company, Wholesale Liquidators. She promised expensive flat-screen televisions and laptop computers at cut-rate prices, but she only delivered a few to keep up the appearance that her outfit was legitimate, Richmond County Investigator Anita Hopson said.

"She established herself in the community by portraying herself as a good Christian person with morals," she said.

Ms. O'Tyson was not available for an interview because she is in jail, and efforts to reach an attorney representing her were unsuccessful.

In the months leading up to her arrest July 19, Ms. O'Tyson spent her time working as an advertising sales representative for the TranterGrey Media Group in Evans, Investigator Hopson said. She was a member of the Augusta Advertising Federation and an organizer for its 2007 ADDY awards, a national advertising competition, according to the group's Web site. In her time off, she was a youth organizer for her church and a mentor for an underprivileged girls group.

Behind the scenes, however, police suspect Ms. O'Tyson began enacting a plan to steal thousands of dollars.

Tiffany Robinson, of Evans, said she never received a computer and 19-inch, flat-panel TV that she ordered in March from Ms. O'Tyson for $600.

Mrs. Robinson, a member of the Columbia County chamber, said she heard about Ms. O'Tyson and her offers through an e-mail sent to chamber members. She said she contacted Ms. O'Tyson, who sent her an e-mail showing items for sale at a wholesale rate. "It was weird. It was an e-mail that just had the names, the model number, the price of different things," Mrs. Robinson said. "And it said that she'd place the order through the same people that Best Buy places the order through."

Mrs. Robinson said she gave Ms. O'Tyson a $600 check and was told that she would receive the computer and TV within two weeks. Mrs. Robinson said her check was cashed immediately, but when weeks went by without receiving her order, she left phone messages for Ms. O'Tyson at her workplace.

"She called me and told me this story about how there was a court case, this guy in Dekalb County that took off with her money, and that she would know something - this was on a Friday - that Monday morning or Monday afternoon," Mrs. Robinson said.

She said she eventually had her husband visit Ms. O'Tyson's workplace to get their money back. She said Ms. O'Tyson told her husband that she didn't have the money but would call him back.

"So the next day she called and said she'd have a check on Friday, to come by the office, but she was never there," Mrs. Robinson said.

She said she doubts she'll ever get her $600 back.

Pat VanHooser said she met Ms. O'Tyson at a business luncheon about two years ago. During their conversation, Ms. VanHooser said she floated the idea of starting a reading club for underprivileged young girls and that Ms. O'Tyson jumped at the chance to help. The two quickly became close friends and founded the Smart Girls book club.

"The next thing I know, she was involved and I was happy to have her," Ms. VanHooser said. "She was enthusiastic and well connected. The Smart Girls really took off because of her efforts."

Ms. VanHooser said she was "shocked" when she found out that Ms. O'Tyson was a convicted felon. Later, she said, she learned that more than $4,000 was charged to the Smart Girls' account for purchases at Best Buy.

She has since filed charges against her friend and questions whether Smart Girls, which she said operated on a shoestring budget, will be able to go on. Still, Ms. VanHooser said she thinks Ms. O'Tyson's actions were not driven purely by greed.

"I think there are two sides to her, and one of those was the one I saw," she said. "The other - and I'm no psychiatrist - but I think that there was a mental illness to her."

A 51-year-old Evans woman, who wished to go unnamed because her job prohibits communication with the media, said her dealings with Ms. O'Tyson have shattered her family's trust in others.

The woman's daughter and son-in-law lived in the same neighborhood as Ms. O'Tyson and had developed a friendship with her. They watched her dogs while she was on vacation and even prayed with her when she called their home sobbing. When they were asked whether they wanted to buy a television worth $1,400 for $550, the price didn't seem too far-fetched, the woman said.

The woman and her son-in-law each received their TVs. Ms. O'Tyson told them that she was able to get the items at low prices because she had a distributor in Atlanta who was eager to rid himself of the products before April 15 - the federal income tax deadline. But police think she went to stores and simply bought the items.

The woman said word of their great deal brought a flood of calls from others.. Ms. O'Tyson began receiving orders for larger and larger quantities, knowing full well that she wasn't able to fill them, Investigator Hopson said.

"It just went out of control, but she still didn't mind collecting the cash," Investigator Hopson said.

When the Evans woman noticed that the deals were falling through, she alerted investigators at the sheriff's office, she said.

Ms. O'Tyson is being held at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center on Phinizy Road. She has been charged with three counts of theft by deception, two in Richmond County and one in Columbia County, but more charges, including racketeering, are pending, Investigator Hopson said. Her previous conviction on forgery and theft charges and the fact that she was on parole at the time preclude a bond hearing.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

WHO TO CONTACT


Those who suspect they are victims in the scam are asked to call Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Anita Hopson at (706) 821-1080 or the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at (706) 541-2800.

Comments (116) Add comment
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ListenAndLearn
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ListenAndLearn 07/28/07 - 03:51 am
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If it seems to good to be

If it seems to good to be true........it is....and probably stolen in some form or fashion. With friends like her................

JimCox
7
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JimCox 07/28/07 - 04:47 am
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I wonder how many of

I wonder how many of TranterGrey's advertising clients have had their budgets stolen?

emerald
2
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emerald 07/28/07 - 07:02 am
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With what you can buy at a

With what you can buy at a huge discount on Ebay, Overstock.com and other places like Direct Buy, this did not seem to good to be true - especially if you had no idea about her background. She was so well connected in the community and used that to build your trust in her. Look how this story of her deception continues to grow. I am astonished no-one in the organizations she belonged to and was members of didn't know who she was. And what about her boss - he should have known something weird was going on with all the activity at her job - I know a lot of people who contacted her there, not just the one listed in the article. And on that note, where was her parole officer each month - wouldn't her extensive involvement in the community send up a red flag considering her past?????????

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 07/28/07 - 07:06 am
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a movie needs tobe made based

a movie needs tobe made based on this woman

edwardc
1
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edwardc 07/28/07 - 08:12 am
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The love of money is the root

The love of money is the root of all evil.

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 08:23 am
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Somehow, the system failed.

Somehow, the system failed. She was arrested, tried, convicted, imprisoned, paroled, re-entered society and ended up pulling the same stunts all over again on a new group of victims. Who is accountable, beside the perpetrator? Just something to think about....

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 08:26 am
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My point exactly,

My point exactly, RougeKnight!! Good to hear from you on here - the victims of both scams need to stick together!

veryconcerned
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veryconcerned 07/28/07 - 08:43 am
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I, too have been a victim of

I, too have been a victim of this scam and out quite a bit of money. I am also a customer of Tranter Grey Media. Other than that is where I met Cyndi, the 2 have nothing to do with each other. The Baileys (owners) are 2 of the most decent and honest people I have ever met. I scrutinize my bills when ever they came and never had ANY discrepencies. They are victims just like the rest of us and to assume they had anything to do with the scam is totally unfounded. It is MY fault that I never went to them whenever things were going aray, but like everyone else I trusted Cyndi-if you met her you would know what I mean-I still cannot believe this is the same person that I know and came to like. This is a very painful time for all who were involved and I hope that people would have more empathy. Why do we always look for someone else to blame????? Leave Tranter Grey and Cyndi's family out of this and let the Investigators do their job.

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 08:51 am
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Obviously you don't

Obviously you don't understand the depth of her deception, scoobydo1. Did you read the story? She is so low that she used the girls club, the chamber and the advertising council - not to mention she used this woman's children to gain trust and then offered them a favor of getting them a new TV at a discount. They got their TV, that wasn't greed - they thought it was a friend helping out a friend. Let's be honest here, if someone was a good friend - you would trust them. It doesn't make you stupid or greedy - it makes you human! Cyndi is the one that is to blame for using Christianity to perpetuate this evil - not the victims!

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 08:55 am
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i don't think anyone is

i don't think anyone is assuming they had anything to do with this china1629 - but they must have seen a lot of people coming and going and a lot of phone calls being made - and as her employer, they would have had to been contacted on a regular basis by her parole officer - I would just like to know if they mentioned it to the officer or not. The system might have failed, not them.

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 09:14 am
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China, I am not blaming

China, I am not blaming Tranter Grey or Cyndi's family. All I am saying is she was a convicted felon and a parolee. I don't understand how she could have hidden her activities from her parole officer. She probably had him/her buffaloed like she did everyone else. That's where the system failed, IMO. Like I said in a comment on a related story elsewhere in the AC online, in regard to hiring felons and parolees, everyone deserves a shot at redemption. So hiring a parolee wasn't necessarily the wrong thing to do for Trantor Grey, but in this case, Cyndi had a chance to redeem herself and blew it in a big way. And Scoobydo1, I take issue with what you say. Does wanting to save money on consumer goods make me greedy? I don't think so.

veryconcerned
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veryconcerned 07/28/07 - 09:15 am
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If you are in a business that

If you are in a business that alot of phone calls are usually being made, plus the fact that Cyndi was involved in several civic organizations, it would not alert someone to mention it to anyone. I am on the phone ALL day in my business. I agree that it is the system that failed, but when you mention other people by name, unfortunatly then they become associated with the wrong doing and that is not fair.

As for the greedy comment--I resent that- greed had nothing to do with the reason I ordered TV's and computers. I received the first order and friends and co workers saw this and asked if I could get them one, too. I just happened to have alot of friends LOL- I have paid every single person back with my own money(which by the way was for my daughters college tuition) As I said earlier this is a very painful time for those who were involved--have some empathy.

veryconcerned
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veryconcerned 07/28/07 - 09:24 am
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Rogueknight-people do deserve

Rogueknight-people do deserve a second chance, and that is what she was given-she also seemed to be turning her life around. Why would anyone think anything differently with all the good things she was doing. Was she really turning her life around or was this an avenue to set people up for her next sting?? Somehow, I do not believe it was--why when you know that eventually you will not get away with it? This is much deeper than we can imagine or even relate to, an addiction of some kind and if you know anything about addicitions - they take over even the most decent people.

dirtracer
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dirtracer 07/28/07 - 09:43 am
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Friends & Family we are

Friends & Family we are gathered here to day to convict
Cyndi O'Tyson the first one with out sin cast the first stone..
oh no stones to be throwed today only people trying to make a fast buck WELCOME to Cyndi's world get rich quick fast.
she was taking from you to give to the poor. PLEASE
leave this woman's family out of this

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 09:49 am
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china69 - She admitted she

china69 - She admitted she was worried about losing her job because of the amount of time she was spending out of the office and in the office on the orders she was taking - she told that to the person I ordered from, that is why I wondered what her employer must have thought or if the parole officer was told of this - I was in no way implying anything wrong on their part or the part of the company. I feel for you - this is tragic, along with many other stories that are surfacing. I too have paid people back out of my own money for things THEY asked to purchase, not because they asked for it, as they know we are all in the same boat here, but because I felt it was the right thing for me to do. I agree, she is a very sick person - and she needs to be put in jail for a long, long time!

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 10:07 am
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China, you have my sympathy

China, you have my sympathy and empathy. This is EXACTLY the same way she operated her scam when she was with APAC. She made it sound like a great opportunity to get a good price on a computer system with all the newest technology and software. Who doesn't want a good deal on big ticket items, and back in 1998, a complete Compaq system with printer for $1100 was a heck of a deal. I assume that you were at the ADDY awards ceremony back in February. My wife and I went when her boss gave us free tickets, as her boss did advertising business and was one of the sponsors of the event. You can imagine how incensed I was to see Cyndi there, because, for one, she still owed me restitution, but to see her toasted as the "belle of the ball" was more than I could take. My wife could see how agitated I was becoming and convinced me to leave before I stood up and made a scene. I wanted to get up and shout, "Do they know you're a thief and a convicted felon?" In hind sight, I should have done it, but didn't want to embarrass my wife. How could I have known she was pulling the same stunt all over again?

veryconcerned
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veryconcerned 07/28/07 - 10:10 am
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and you believe her-why?

and you believe her-why?

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 10:19 am
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Scooby, her "deals" were not

Scooby, her "deals" were not too good to be true. They were items offered at deep discount. When you hear about the deals and see the items being delivered to other folks, who are obviously elated to have gotten them, then why would there be any appearance of impropriety? Cyndi wasn't dealing with idiots who just laid down and gave up their hard earned money. She convinced them this was on the up and up, and by all appearances it was. You just keep on throwing out your cliches, but until you've walked a mile in our shoes, don't judge us.

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 10:23 am
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AMEN, RogueKnight!!!

AMEN, RogueKnight!!!

nice
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nice 07/28/07 - 10:29 am
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i think every one should wait

i think every one should wait to see what will happen. she needs help not jail. went there did not do any good. she needs lots of help.please pray for the faimly and if you know them still talk to them and be normal like always. they need your prays.

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 10:31 am
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Sorry folks, but it's been

Sorry folks, but it's been nine years since I got caught up in her web of deceit, and it's obvious I still have a little animosity. It's fueled by the fact that more good people got scammed, only this time, it sounds like people lost their personal assets. The last time, it was mostly corporate assets that got stolen. I personally lost $550, and a few of my friends lost about the same, but what she screwed APAC out of was around $230,000. To think that she may have ruined a few families financial security really chaps my [filtered word].

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 07/28/07 - 10:39 am
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Scoob, you don't think I

Scoob, you don't think I didn't research it? I did, and waited for a while before I jumped on board. I think I was the last of her victims in the APAC scam, that's how much time I spent watching her dealing with the others in my office, who gave her the money and received their goods. I believe I used due dilligence, and I'm sure the others will probably say the same thing, not that I am speaking for them. Also, keep in mind, this was nine years ago. The internet was up and running, but not at the capacity it is today. And I'm sorry you feel that way about Jesus. Your loss.....

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 10:40 am
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scoobydo1 - THIS WAS A

scoobydo1 - THIS WAS A SO-CALLED FRIEND OF 2 YEARS --- and why would we do a check on someone that we saw delivering TV's to others for months on end????? Do you not understand friendship means TRUST to most people??????

pofwe
5
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pofwe 07/28/07 - 10:41 am
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She's a QUEEN BEE did'ja feel

She's a QUEEN BEE did'ja feel the sting?

brkymarie
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brkymarie 07/28/07 - 10:54 am
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Scoobydo...... AKA

Scoobydo...... AKA hover...... Ok so you seem to think that every one is going to do research and criminal checks on everyone who sells something. Does that mean that you do checks on your grocery man who takes your cash for your twinkies. I guess you could make everything on your own but you have to get some resources somewhere besides your garden.... If this was you or your family who lost everything you would not be concerned about saying that you do consumer checks and law checks or what ever you do. You can be fooled this way too and if you dont believe that well then you could be being scamed as I type.

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 10:54 am
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To NICE - no, she needs to

To NICE - no, she needs to sit in jail and rot for doing this a second time when she had more opportunity than most released inmates who actually DO change and never get the chance she did to have a good life with people who really cared about her!!

butterflygina
159
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butterflygina 07/28/07 - 10:59 am
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I was scammed years ago for

I was scammed years ago for those credit cards that you use on catalog orders. Now I'm older and wiser. There is no way, other than during the Christmas shopping season, will I believe I can purchase these items, brand-new for the prices she quoted. But when someone has your trust, you'll believe anything. Sorry for the folks who are out the money, they probably have plenty more in the bank

emerald
2
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emerald 07/28/07 - 11:00 am
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Scarlett - I take

Scarlett - I take responsibility of my part in trusting A FRIEND! That is my sin??? How sad for our community!

emerald
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emerald 07/28/07 - 11:03 am
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butterflygina - I am sorry

butterflygina - I am sorry for you being scammed, but NO, most of the people we know who were scammed DO NOT have plenty of money in the bank (including myself) - this has ruined a LOT of people that I know. I would hope you would have a little more sympathy toward them since you have been there before. Unless of couse, you had plenty so it didnt affect you???

brkymarie
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brkymarie 07/28/07 - 11:04 am
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If you have learned then why

If you have learned then why do you judge. It is not your place to cut people down. If you took the time to research every little thing that you bought then you would not have a computer. Everything has a flaw and whether you are scammed or not you dont get to judge people based on your own thoughts. I hope you had someone backing you up when you got scammed because with a so called friend like you who needs an enemy. Wait maybe my questions and comments should be saved until you are able to do research on me and see if I am legit.

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