By Sarah Willets firstname.lastname@example.org
August 7, 2014
LUMBERTON — An employee of a Lumberton cleaning service has been charged with stealing financial card information from a sick client and making purchases after the 72-year-old passed away, according to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.
“My heart sank. I tell you it just made me sick. It just made me sick that someone I trusted to go in and look after things, wash his clothes, would just take advantage of somebody,” said Tina Haywood, one of Thomas Lee Byrd’s daughters.
Donna Lynn Dowless. an employee of Faye’s Cleaning Service, had worked off and on for Byrd for the past four or five months while he battled kidney cancer, according to another daughter, Deborah Parker.
After Byrd passed away on May 4, Parker and Haywood began receiving his mail and noticed some odd charges on his bank statements.
“One transaction was made on the day of his funeral for Dollywood tickets,” Haywood said. “That’s when we started looking at other bank statements to see what was going on.”
Parker said they discovered charges going back to January for sporting goods, shoes, food and a pre-paid cell phone. According to Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey, the charges added up to about $1,000.
“He was sick. We knew he wasn’t making these charges,” Haywood said.
The sisters took their father’s statements to the bank and contacted sheriff’s Detective Tom Wilson.
“To our knowledge, she just wrote down his debit information — the number, the expiration, the code on the back. She didn’t take the card,” Parker said.
With the help of Wilson and the bank, Haywood and Parker learned that Dowless, 36, made purchases online and over the phone, sending the items to the home of her boyfriend, who was out of state.
“She was using my dad’s name. But, when she did a confirmation or tracked the packages, she used her name,” Haywood said.
Dowless, who lives on Sandpit Road in Lumberton, was arrested on July 29 and charged with felonious financial card fraud. According to a jail administrator, she made her $5,000 bond before being jailed so her photograph was not available for publication.
The sisters were shocked, having had good experiences with Faye’s Cleaning Service for years. An employee of the cleaning service said that they had not been notified of Dowless’ arrest and that she was still employed.
“I think that it’s amplified because of the condition he was in,” Parker said. “… I think it’s much more hurtful because she took advantage of someone at their worst, their dying days.”
Haywood says she now feels differently about allowing people into her home.
“It’s not like it’s thousand and thousands of dollars, but you don’t know how may other people were affected and don’t even know it,” Haywood said.