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Police Warn Storm Victims Of Scams

Last updated on Wednesday, March 7, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS)(WISH) - Cleanup continues in Henryville after a tornado devastated the Clark County town. But while many victims try to pick up the pieces, police said some are being ripped off and don’t know it.

Images of the destruction and damage have been widely publicized, and it will be a while before it's all cleaned up. It's almost unthinkable that someone would target folks who've lost everything. But police said some of those affected by the storms are getting hit again.

On Front Street in Henryville, it looks like a war zone. While some people help tornado victims clean up by hand, others are using chains saws to remove debris.

"It's been overwhelming," said Clark County Sheriff's Department Maj. Chuck Adams.

But Adams said not everyone in Henryville is helping. Late Tuesday, investigators arrested 35-year-old New Jersey resident Matthew Smith after police said he was caught stealing copper from a tornado victim's home.

Investigators said tornado victims were cleaning up when they noticed a Smith in a home with a lot of damage. Police said they questioned Smith, and he said he was picking up copper so people wouldn't steal it. Investigators said Smith was using a hacksaw to cut copper pipes and placing it in a bag. And they don't believe his intentions were good.

"There are people that are coming in to town to rip people off, basically, take advantage of these people and in their time of need," Clark said.

Adams also wanted to alert homeowners to people looking to make quick cash. Contractors have saturated the community looking for business.

"A tree trimming company only identified that they were out of Oklahoma, had come in to town, removed some trees from some homeowners, and the information I got is that they charged these people $41,000 to remove their trees," Adams said.

He said the company was legit, and the homeowner signed an agreement. But he advised residents not to give in to pressure. He said homeowners should make sure a company is licensed and insured before hiring out any work.

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