South Carolina man swindled $450,000 from Lowe’s buying pricey lawn mowers, feds say

South Carolina man swindled $450,000 from Lowe’s buying pricey lawn mowers, feds say

A South Carolina man is accused of buying mowers and other expensive power equipment from Lowe’s using business accounts he backed with fake companies and bad checks.

Bobby Cherry, 58, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges in a scheme to defraud Lowe’s Home Improvement of more than $450,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina said Friday in a news release. Cherry is from Manning, about an hour and a half southeast of Columbia.

A defense attorney for Cherry and a representative from Lowe’s did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment Friday.

Lowe’s is based in Mooresville, about 45 minutes north of Charlotte.

According to federal prosecutors, Cherry and two other men opened business accounts with Lowe’s using fictional landscaping and home improvement companies.

The trio then deposited worthless checks into those accounts and bought equipment from stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia before Lowe’s detected the fraudulent activity, prosecutors said in court documents. Some of the stores they reportedly frequented were in Charlotte and the surrounding area — including Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, Lincoln, Cleveland and Iredell counties.

In October and November 2019, prosecutors said Cherry and the men deposited checks seemingly worth between $3,000 and $9,800 at various stores in Monroe, Charlotte, Waxhaw, Indian Trail, Shelby and Lincolnton.

More than 60 checks from at least 20 checking accounts were used to temporarily fund their business accounts at Lowe’s, according to a grand jury indictment. But the banks later declined the checks, citing insufficient funds, closed accounts, unknown accounts, frozen or blocked accounts, and fictitious checks.

Before they were declined, Cherry would buy thousands of dollars worth of items from Lowe’s — including zero turn lawn mowers and Husqvarna equipment, which makes forest and gardening outdoor power tools, prosecutors said.

“In total, during the course of the scheme, the co-conspirators opened at least 25 such fraudulent business accounts which they used to obtain more than $450,000 in fraudulently purchased goods,” prosecutors said.

The scheme reportedly lasted from August 2019 to March 2020. A grand jury indicted Cherry, Russell Leroy Calvin and Michael Marcel Montgomery in August.

Cherry has been in jail since his arrest, court documents show. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Montgomery pleaded guilty to similar charges in February but has not been sentenced. The charges against Calvin are still pending, prosecutors said.