KNOX, Maine — Police have arrested a former vacuum cleaner salesman an official says “went rogue” and possibly bilked between $50,000 and $100,000 from central Maine residents who thought they were purchasing vacuum cleaners and related products from him.
The company will refund all customers who were victims of the crime, an official said Monday afternoon.
Police on Monday morning charged Anthony McKechnie, 32, with theft, according to Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. McKechnie, who had until recently been living in Montville with his family, confessed, the chief deputy said.
The alleged scam came to light when an 85-year-old Knox man told police on Dec. 7 that he believed he had been ripped off by the salesman he’d worked with for several years.
The man told police he had purchased nearly $4,000 worth of vacuums and other equipment recently from McKechnie, who asked him to write the check directly to him and not to the company.
“He thought it was strange,” Trafton said. “Then a couple days later, [McKechnie] comes back and says they couldn’t cash that check because they couldn’t read the signature.”
The salesman asked the elderly man to write another check, also made out to him. The customer complied — and McKechnie allegedly cashed both checks and kept the $8,000.
Joseph Mannisto, manager of the Augusta office of Aerus, said Monday that so far 10 to 12 customers appear to have been affected by the salesman, who had recently been let go by the company after three or four years of employment.
“Basically what happened is this guy did go rogue and took advantage of some people,” Mannisto said. “It’s not a good situation.”
He said that he is still hearing from people who have been affected. They are primarily located in the Belfast-Rockland area, but McKechnie was an independent contractor and traveled to other locations, he said.
Trafton said that police would like to hear from other people who did business with McKechnie.
“If they had any question of whether or not he was honest, they need to contact us,” Trafton said. “I believe there are more victims than we know about.”
Police investigators were able to find McKechnie relatively quickly because the elderly man from Knox had found out information about the salesman and passed it on to authorities.
“We’ve been rushing because we’re trying to prevent future victims,” Trafton said.
People who did business with the vacuum cleaner salesman and are concerned are asked to call police at 338-2040.
An earlier version of this story requires clarification. The salesman did not previously work for Electrolux, but for Aerus, which was formerly known as Electrolux Corp. USA.