LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A WINK News Call for Action investigation uncovers a business still targeting our community, preying on people's good will.
In May we first told you about Varsity Signs. According to police reports, the company was claiming to represent local schools in order to sell banners with business logos that would hang at high school football stadiums. We found out then that Varsity Signs was not affiliated with the schools it was claiming to represent. Now, another business has come forward to say: Varsity Signs is back on the street, with the same sales tactics.
"A gentleman came in supposedly representing Cypress and he had a Cypress banner and advertisement and said we need your support and banner for the football season-- and it starts next month," recalled local State Farm Insurance agent and owner, Charlie Dodson. "And I was a sucker and I believed it and wrote him a check for $295."
A few weeks ago, Dodson was approached by a man named Jesse with Varsity Signs, with a familiar pitch: he said he represented Cypress Lake High School.
"[I] had no reason to think that he wasn't from Cypress because his brochure, the layout, had Cypress Lake High School," explained Dodson.
But the next day, he realized his name was spelled wrong on the paperwork and called the school, to get it fixed.
"The school said, 'Oh no, they don't have anything to do with us-- this guy is a scam. Don't give him a check.' " Dodson said.
Since it was too late for that, the next call Dodson made was to his bank.
"I found out he cashed the check less than an hour after I gave it to him," he said.
Dodson then called us and we got to work.
We found police reports from businesses out of Charlotte, Lee and Collier county claiming that Varsity Signs came to them, representing local high schools.
Time and time again, businesses handed over a check for a banner and didn't get a thing in return.
In fact, the day after our first report aired on May 24th, another business owner in Charlotte came forward to report that he too, thought he had been scammed!
We went looking for Varsity Signs owner, Jesse Moers to get some answers.
When we knocked on his door, we found this sign, addressed to law enforcement, saying that Jesse was not living there. A few days later, we went back to the same address and the sign was down.
We also knocked on another possible address registered to Jesse Moers. Again, no one came to the door.
When we tried to call, we either got no answer, or our messages went unanswered.
Meanwhile, Charlie Dodson hopes Varsity Signs will soon be out of business, permanently.
"I'd like to see him go to jail because that's the kind of thing that leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth," he told us.
And while Dodson still plans on contributing to the community, he's going to be more careful who he gives his money to.
"I talked to the coach of Cypress Lake yesterday and made him show some identification and I called and verified. But I am going to put a banner up there because it's a good school and it's good for the community," he reiterated.
Just to be clear, any time someone claiming to represent a school solicits you, all you have to do is pick up the phone and verify first. That's the best way to make sure your money is going where it is supposed to go.
As for Charlie Dodson, we're happy to report that he didn't lose any money on this deal because he notified his bank within 24 hours of issuing the check. The check-cashing company, not Charlie Dodson, is out the nearly $300.