Update: “Hurricane Handy Man” Russell Bannister is in custody in Greenville, S.C., after authorities there arrested him on several charges of exploiting a vulnerable adult, burglary and assault/battery on a law enforcement officer. In South Carolina, Bannister is accused of posing as a pastor collecting funds for tornado victims. He was arrested last week while using an alias. Bannister was also wanted on various charges for crimes in North Carolina and Georgia. After his identity was confirmed, VCSO detectives were notified Monday that Bannister was in custody. The VCSO warrants for Bannister’s arrest include charges of exploiting the elderly, organized scheme to defraud and grand theft. Additional details are in the original news release below. Booking information is available here: Greenville County.org/inmate_search.
Public Information Office
SCAM-ARTIST ‘HURRICANE HANDYMAN’ SOUGHT
Investigators with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office are issuing a scam alert and asking the public to be on the lookout for a handyman scam artist who has taken an estimated $20,000-plus from several victims over the past 30 days.
The suspect, 44-year-old Russell Bannister (DOB 5/13/1972), is wanted on charges of exploiting the elderly, organized scheme to defraud and grand theft. Sheriff’s investigators obtained a warrant for his arrest today. All of his known victims discovered since mid-May have been between the ages of 70 and 85. Police in Edgewater and Daytona Beach are investigating cases that occurred in their cities.
The latest Sheriff’s Office investigation started this week. On Sunday, a 78-year-old Ormond Beach woman reported that Bannister had stolen money from her home in the Holiday Village Mobile Home Park. The victim had met Bannister days earlier (on June 8), when he knocked on her door and identified himself as a handyman. She invited him inside, and Bannister gave an estimate to paint, repair and install new flooring in the victim’s home. He said he needed an $1,100 up-front payment for materials, so the victim went to her bedroom, got cash and paid him.
Bannister showed up unannounced at the victim’s home Sunday, claiming he couldn’t reach her by phone. Once inside her home, he told the victim to walk outside with her telephone while he called her to test her phone service. She did. Later, after Bannister left, the victim discovered her remaining $6,900 in cash was missing from her bedroom.
The victim immediately picked Bannister out of a photo lineup Monday.
There are four other active fraud/theft investigations involving Bannister in Volusia County: A Daytona Beach Police Department case (an 84-year-old male victim, reported May 11), another Sheriff’s Office case (an 85-year-old female victim in Ormond Beach, reported May 23) and two Edgewater Police Department cases (a 75-year-old female victim, reported June 4, and a 71-year-old female victim, reported June 5). These cases involved Bannister and an accomplice offering to pressure wash or paint the victim’s home for a price – but instead stealing cash and checks and never even starting the work.
This morning, Bannister ran from a sheriff’s deputy who spotted him back at the latest victim’s home. He was not immediately located. Bannister has no permanent local address. He is listed as 6 feet tall, 220 pounds with brown hair and green eyes.
It’s estimated Bannister has taken $21,378 from five victims in the past 30 days. Investigators are asking any other victims of Bannister’s scam to contact law enforcement to report their cases. Anyone who has information about any of these cases or knows Bannister’s whereabouts is asked to call our dispatch center at 386-248-1777, or Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida, toll-free, at 888-277-TIPS. You can also text your tip by texting TIP231 plus your message to CRIMES. Anyone who provides information to Crime Stoppers will remain anonymous and can qualify for a reward of up to $5,000.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4589 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151