Bristol man pleads guilty to scamming business

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A Bristol, Tenn. man who has been selling credit card merchandise from Morristown to Elizabethton, then failing to deliver, was arrested Thursday by Bristol Tennessee Police following investigation by Carter County Sheriff's Department.
   According to sheriff's department Investigator Audrey Covington, Joe Bell, 48, 1805 King College Road, who represented himself as a salesman from S&J's Merchant Services of Bristol, was charged with theft under $500 after selling a credit card scanner to Karan McDowell, owner of Hoof Beats, 543 Hwy. 91, in June.
   McDowell wrote Bell a check for $295, which he took to her bank the same day and cashed. McDowell became concerned when the scanner did not arrive at the time specified and called the telephone numbers on the receipt, one of which came back not in service and the other to a group of churches. A spokesman from the church group stated they did not know the man but had had several calls for him in the past, including one from a Morristown detective who had been trying to locate him for similar incidents.
   Bell pleaded guilty Friday in General Sessions Court, according to Covington, and then was transported to Morristown to answer similar charges.
   Covington said that after receiving the initial report, "we issued warrants on him but we had no idea where he was. Last week, we got an anonymous phone call from a female saying, 'He's done the same thing to me [in Piney Flats]. Here's some information. I don't know if it will help.'
   "With that information we were able to find him in Bristol, Tenn. Then yesterday we called Bristol and the police department went out there and actually arrested him and then we went over and got him," Covington said Friday.
   "The tip led to us getting information to where he was and then we were able to work with Bristol Police Department" officers who acted within a matter of minutes, she said.