Every year, millions of Americans become victims of fraud. This often involves bogus romances, lottery scams, credit card theft, invasive tech support, grandchildren-in-trouble scams, or any other means of gaining access to a victims’ finances.
Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They usually have financial savings, own a home and have good credit, all of which make them attractive targets for scammers.
Seniors may also be less inclined to report fraud due to the embarrassment of having been scammed or the concern that relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs.
Unfortunately, because Florida has an abundance of seniors, it has become fertile ground for scammers. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is keenly aware of this situation and has taken a big step in combating fraud in the person of Detective Richard Mead, who has earned the sobriquet “The Fraud Guy.”
I recently met with Mead at the Sheriff’s District Office on State Road 200. He has an engaging and pleasant personality, and I soon felt quite comfortable talking with him.
Mead is a native Floridian, born in Miami in 1970. His dad is also a native and was an over-the-road truck driver who also served in the military during the Vietnam conflict. His mom hailed from Brooklyn, New York.
In 1977, he and his family made an overnight stop in Ocala while heading back home to Miami from Tennessee. They fell in love with Ocala and shortly relocated to Marion County, where Mead has lived since.
After graduating from Lake Weir High School in 1988, Mead went to work as a machine operator for a local manufacturing plant. He also started attending night school at the College of Central Florida, studying business administration.
The year 1996 was a landmark one for him. All the countless hours he had spent combining work and study finally bore fruit. Richard Mead received his associate’s degree and soon began working for an accounting firm.
He also continued his education taking courses in business administration from St. Leo’s University with the goal of becoming a Certified Public Accountant.
His efforts were successful. In 2004, he passed his state exams and started his own accounting firm.
In 2013, Mead shut down his private accounting firm and went to work for one of his prized clients as an executive vice president.
At about that same time, Richard Mead felt a “pull” towards public service and duty to others above personal gain. At the age of 43, he started attending the police academy on weekends with people half his age. His decision to transition away from his lucrative field in the private sector in order to serve the people of Marion County bears witness to that calling.
In 2015, still working as an accountant, he became a reserve deputy sheriff. In 2017, he completed his transition and left his private sector job to become a full-time patrol deputy.
After two years on the road, he was appointed to the criminal investigation division and assigned to property crimes. This transfer turned out to be a very serendipitous arrangement for the Sheriff’s Office, the people of Marion County and Richard Mead.
The property crimes unit was being inundated with fraud cases that often required the special skills that the newly appointed Mead had been honing for many years in the private sector. It only made good sense to funnel fraud cases to the most capable person available.
The role of being the go-to guy for fraud cases earned him the nickname, “Fraud Guy.”
Detective Mead is now a one-person, special unit in charge of fraud cases. Since the majority of fraud victims are retired seniors, it also made sense to physically locate the detective at the district office on State Road 200, close to areas where most fraud victims reside.
Barring interference from the weather, this Veterans Day was to be a very special holiday for Mead, as he planned to marry his fiancé Jacqueline, a firefighter-paramedic, who has a 13-year-old son, two cats and a dog. Please join me in wishing Richard and Jacqueline and their family a long and happy union.
Mead respectfully urges anyone who suspects they have been defrauded or swindled to contact the Sheriff’s Office on 200. Your case will be handled with the utmost consideration and respect.
His message to the people of Marion County is to not let your fear of embarrassment deter you from reporting fraud. Swindlers and con artists are very good at what they do and count on their victims’ embarrassment to help them escape justice.
He points out that even the former Director of the F.B.I. and his wife were victims of a Jamaican lottery scam in 2014. They reported the crime, and the swindlers were arrested and convicted.
Ross Olmos lives in Ocala. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.