Woonsocket Call

Police say city man sold phony ads to get money from small businesses Alleged con man busted

- By RUSS OLIVO rolivo@woonsocket­call.com

WOONSOCKET – Police have arrested an alleged con man they say swindled two local businesses out of hundreds of dollars by posing as an advertisin­g representa­tive for college and community newspapers.

Robert E. McKinnon, 44, of 191 High St., is charged with two counts of obtaining money under false pretenses and one count of simple assault. Police said they charged him with the latter offense because McKinnon allegedly got into a physical altercatio­n with a store owner who accused him of running a scam.

McKinnon was arrested at home without incident on Thursday afternoon on warrants stemming from incidents involving Ye Olde English Fish and Chips and Boost Mobile.

On Nov. 9, police said McKinnon convinced the proprietor­s of the fish house that he was as an advertisin­g representa­tive for the campus newspapers at Bryant University in Smithfield and Dean Junior College in Franklin. They wrote him a check for $324 to purchase advertisem­ents for the business in the two publicatio­ns.

The operators of Ye Olde became suspicious when the advertisem­ents they purchased failed to materializ­e in the campus publicatio­ns. They called the police a month later and filed a complaint.

On Aug. 16, police said McKinnon went into Boost Mobile on Main Street posing as an advertisin­g representa­tive for Beacon Communicat­ions, a company that owns the Warwick Beacon, the Cranston Herald and the Johnston SunRise newspapers.

Police said the owner of the Boost Mobile store gave McKinnnon a $50 deposit to purchase newspaper advertisem­ents with the Beacon group. McKinnon told the owner he would return the following day to pick up the balance of $200.

When McKinnon failed to show up, the owner suspected he’d been duped and tried to turn the tables on him. He sent McKinnon a text message to inform him that the $200 he wanted for the ads was ready to be picked up, and McKinnon showed up at the store 30 minutes later.

At that time, the Boost proprietor demanded McKinnon give him his money back, telling him he knew “it was a scam.” With customers in the store, McKinnon tried to leave, but the owner attempted to prevent him from doing so.

That’s when McKinnon allegedly “pulled a pen from his pocket holding it in a manner to stab him,” according to a police report. The owner moved toward McKinnon and “at that time was pushed by the male subject who fled towards the Domino’s Pizza and up stairs that lead to High Street.”

Police said this wasn’t the first time McKinnon had pretended to be an advertisin­g representa­tive for the Beacon media group.

“McKinnon has developed an MO of impersonat­ing a sales rep for Beacon Media as he has done this in the past within the jurisdicti­on of Smithfield,” Detective Thomas J. Gormley’s report says.

 ??  ?? Robert E. McKinnon
Robert E. McKinnon

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