Sweetwater Police are looking for a con man who after sweeping through Sevier County took advantage of several Sweetwater residents also. Authorities say he took a Sevier County man for $3,500 last August before moving to Sweetwater and attempted to bilk citizens out of real estate, money, cars and virtually their future. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has a warrant charging the “John Doe” who has several aliases with theft over $60,000. His Ontario ex-girlfriend whose name he had been using as an alias is in Monroe County jail on conspiracy charges. “John Doe” is on the lam with a new girlfriend, the ex-wife of a Sweetwater police officer, and a Glock handgun and the truck belonging to a Sweetwater man.
“This has affected more than 50 people in the Sweetwater area,” said Sweetwater Police Chief Eddie Byrum in a press conference Wednesday.
A man moved from Sevier County to Sweetwater about two months ago saying he was from Ontario, Canada after meeting Donna Poe of Sweetwater in a Yahoo online chat room. Donna Poe is an ex-wife of a Sweetwater Police Officer and a cousin to another officer.
A man known locally in Sweetwater as Jamie Lee Turpin told everyone that "Love brought him here,” but that was before police found the real Jamie Lea Turpin, a 25-year-old Canadian woman who had bought him a Jeep and followed him here.
Turpin, or whoever he really is, flashed money, portrayed being a high roller who had inherited a large sum of money that was being held in a bank in Canada.
He convinced local people that he would buy their property, one of which as a 260 acre farm, another was a business, but he needed them to open a checking account in their name so he could have the money transferred here. He would then offer them a large sum of money if they would do that for him.
Then he "arranged" for them to purchase for him new cars from Jacky Jones Ford in Sweetwater. Those cars consisted of a Shelby GT Mustang, a special edition Ford Mustang Saleen, and five others.
SPD Chief Eddie Byrum said that on February 29, he became suspicious of Turpin when one of his "war stories" did not agree with what he knew to be true. "He told us he was one of eight special forces solders involved in the rescue of soldier Jessica Lynch in Iraq and that he and the others had been shot, but he survived. I knew better than to believe that story. It did not agree with the news accounts of the rescue," the chief said. "He portrayed himself as a former Navy Seal to some and a former member of the United States Coast Guard to others. He even had a military tattoo on one arm." Chief Byrum said he had family names tattooed on his other arm.
“Turpin" complained to Police Commissioner Bill Stockton last Thursday that Chief Byrum offended him and was harassing him when he became inquisitive, checking up on him, and began delving into his past. Turpin accused the SPD of being corrupt. The chief found out that Turpin had bragged about planning to build a club, purchasing William Poe's farm, and portraying himself as being from Las Vegas with a $27 million bank account.
The chief set up an interview with two TBI agents and briefed them on his suspicions, so when Turpin went to them with his complaint that the chief was harassing him, they began questioning him. "He said he did not want to give out that information," the chief said.
"He is a con man. A pretty good one. These (victims) are not naive people. I can see where he could talk almost anybody into almost anything. I really feel for those affected by his scams, but I understand how they could fall for it. He is slick. He could have written as much as $500,000 in checks. He actually only got away with the truck he borrowed from Mr. Poe," the chief said. “He’s just a predator. It looks like he comes into a town, gets established and as soon as he gains people’s trust, he plans to vanish with their property or money.”
Turpin even convinced two Sweetwater Police Officers, Chris Poe (Donna' cousin) and Nick Farrell, to quit their jobs with Sweetwater City Police and work for him as security officers under contract.
The chief took Loudon County Lt. Detective Jeff Vittatoe, and TBI agents to where Turpin lived on New Hope Road. There they found the REAL Jamie Lea Turpin, of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario who had driven here to meet "Turpin". She had purchased him a Jeep Cherokee which he was driving.