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Alleged con man arrested
Suspect accused of running church scam

COVINGTON - Covington police have made a relatively rare arrest - they caught an alleged flimflam man in the act of attempting to con a resident and were able to connect him with a prior case in which a victim lost a significant amount of money.

Clifford Neal Jr., 52, of an Atlanta address was arrested Tuesday and charged with theft by deception and making false statements.

Detective Steve Fowler observed the man talking to a female at Kroger and something about the situation "just didn't look right," according to Detective Daniel Seals.

"When Detective Fowler asked the woman what the man was doing, she said he was trying to talk to her about a donation to a church Detective Fowler had heard about a similar scam, and he (Neal) was subsequently arrested for an incident that occurred on April 16 in the city," Seals said.

He said in that incident, the suspect allegedly approached a man on the Square in Covington and began talking to him about making a large donation to a church. Seals said there is not an actual church by the name he gave.

"He asked the victim to withdraw an amount of money from the victim's bank account to show good faith toward making the donation," Seals said. "Once withdrawn, the suspect took that money and left the victim with a parcel of play money or scrap paper wrapped in a bandanna."

Seals said there have been variations of this scam going on for years in which a con man will ask that a victim give him money to hold in exchange for leaving a supposedly larger amount of money with the victim. The con man leaves the scene with the victim's cash and the victim then discovers he's left with fake money or worthless paper cut to the size of U.S. currency. Most of the time, the con man is long gone before the police are notified.

"Detective Fowler, through excellent police work, was able to find this man," Seals said, adding that witnesses and other evidence confirms that he is the man who allegedly took the money from the individual on the Square under false pretenses. "We feel we have an extremely strong case against Mr. Neal at this point and are wondering if there's anybody else out there who's had contact with him and hasn't come forward."

Seals said police don't know if Neal was working alone or if he had accomplices, so the CPD is asking anyone who's had a similar encounter with Neal or someone else in the last month or two to contact them. Seals can be reached at 770-385-2144.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.