Formal charges have been filed in McLean County against two of 11 people who were named in a North Dakota attorney general’s cease and desist order for violating state fraud, transient merchant and contractor laws, and who authorities say are part of a national crime ring with camps in South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Bartley Gorman Jr., 55, of Oklahoma City, Okla., on felony charges of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and illegal control of an enterprise, according to court documents. Sean Patrick Gorman, 26, of Minot, is wanted on the same charges, and court documents show he is also charged with felony theft.
Sean Gorman is scheduled for a two-day trial in McLean County starting March 5 stemming from similar charges filed in September 2019. Authorities allege Sean Gorman used deceptive tactics and intimidation to get a Garrison man to pay $42,000 for work he didn't request and that Gorman started without approval. He is also accused of not having contractor or transient merchant licenses, according to a court affidavit.
The two are alleged to be part of a crime ring known as Travelers, Irish Travelers and several other names, according to a McLean County court affidavit. In North Dakota, they've concentrated their efforts on construction scams in the rural areas of oil-producing counties, according to information from North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
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Sean Gorman and Bartley Gorman “victimized elderly or vulnerable people using residential construction fraud,” an affidavit filed by McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson states. The two did “deceptive and fraudulent work” on home improvements for an elderly widow, charging her $6,700 for the work. Sean Gorman allegedly attempted to steal $65,000 from another woman, asking for payment after starting an asphalt project she thought was warranty work. Sean Gorman used “threats and extortion,” the affidavit states, in an effort to get the woman to turn over a car and a camper as a down payment. The woman fled her home through a window and sought help. Sean Gorman and his work crew were gone when she returned.
Court documents do not list attorneys for Sean Gorman or Bartley Gorman for the charges filed last week. Erickson could not be reached for comment Monday.
Federal court documents allege the crime ring is involved in other states in money laundering, tax evasion, life insurance scams, and food stamp, Medicaid, mail and wire fraud.
The McLean County affidavit is accompanied by a sentencing memorandum filed in a 2017 federal case in South Carolina District Court in which 24 Travelers pleaded guilty to numerous scams. The most prominent scam involves the use of life insurance policies to gain wealth, which Travelers equate to status, the document states. The policies “are traded, bought, sold and given as dowries” among Traveler camp community members. One woman from the South Carolina Traveler camp had 52 life insurance policies on her, listing more than 30 beneficiaries as her son or daughter, the investigation showed. She had no children.
Stenehjem’s cease and desist order names Gorman General Contracting and Sean Patrick Gorman, Bartley Gorman Jr., Robert Gorman, Patrick Michael Gorman, Joseph Jude Gorman, John Gorman, Ann Gorman, John Costello, John Lovell, William Riley and Peter TooGood.
Stenehjem referred to the Travelers as an organized crime ring and “a gang of thugs.” Anyone who has had work done or has been threatened by them should call the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-472-2600.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com
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