You’ve heard countless warnings here on 7News about online shopping scams.
But never has a case of this type of widespread fraud hit so close to home.
7News has the exclusive story of a Laurens County woman accused of luring people to buy discounted brand name products and either failing to deliver the goods, or sending counterfeits.
In the months leading up to Christmas 38-year-old Katrina Burns was selling brand names like Northface, Ugg, Polo, Apple for up to 80% off on a Facebook site called Trunk & Trestle.
Justin Dixon in Greenville says he paid just $40 for Airpods normally priced at $130. Months later, he says he still has nothing to show for it.
“I didn’t really work last year because I was battling cancer last year. And I was like, it’s just $40 but at the end of the day it’s my money that I worked for, you know,” said Dixon.
Mechelle Owens also in Greenville, says she lost $263 dollars on products she was set to give to her kids for Christmas.
“This was going to be a surprise for to them, it was a great deal. There were people on the website who said they had gotten their items and so I was OK with it because she communicated so well, I trusted her,” said Owens.
Burns had amassed quite a following of about 2,000 members on her company’s Facebook site, eventually switching to a website to do business.
But by December, the complaints of fraud were mounting.
“It started with just one or two cases and then it just kind of spiraled into 10, 20 and as of yesterday I think we had approximately 50 reports filed against Ms. Burns in relation to this,” said Officer Courtney Snow with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office.
Many of the cases are from the Upstate, but dozens are from other states, and even Canada.
“I lost approximately $500,” said Tina Mofin in New Jersey.
“I lost right at 1000,” said Katie Lazaro in New York.
Snow says the reports show most of the victims paid money and got nothing, but the ones who did get a shipment allegedly received counterfeits like a Polo shirt with a logo that is printed on not sewn.
Now Burns faces dozens of charges of “Breach of trust with fraudulent intent.”
The timing was devasting to moms like Morfin.
“That money was put aside throughout the year and was not going to be able to be replaced in time for Christmas, so my kids were without some Christmas gifts come Christmas,” said Morfin.
And Lazaro in New York says, like others, she trusted Burns and her site because they both grew up in the Upstate.
“Laurens is a very small town. So for somebody to do what she did to somebody that knows everybody, that’s ridiculous,” said Lazaro.
This case so widespread the list of victims even includes employees from the Sheriff’s office. The agency believes more victims are out there and urges them to come forward.
And while the Trunk and Trestle Facebook and website pages have been taken down, there are more than 100 members of a site called “Trunk and Trestle Complaints.”
They warn anyone buying online to pay only with credit card and not apps like Zelle, Cash App, and “Paypal friends and family” that have provided them no fraud protection.
We attempted to talk to Burns but with the pending case, her attorney, Sam Tooker, instead sent us this statement in which he makes the case that criminal charges are not appropriate. He writes “At its heart, Ms. Burns’ case turns on whether the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Burns posessed the specific intent to commit the crimes for which she is charged.” He goes on to say “While Ms. Burns business may have failed, that does not make her conduct criminal.”
The victims believe their is power in numbers, and they will have the last word.
“I know there has to be more people out there who are probably more like myself in the beginnig just afraid or embarrased, embarrased to come out,” said Morfin.
“Even if I dont’ get my money back, hopefully the legal system deals with her and she gets consequences that way,” said Dixon.
“I don’t feel like anyone, I don’t care how much money they make or don’t make, deserves to be scammed,” said Owens.
We should note, Burns has no prior arrest history. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Friday, February 7th.
Check back for any updates on her case.