“These individuals went to businesses and asked for money, and in exchange they said they would put their ads on golf yardage books,” Shelton said.
Shelton said the golf books are given by various golf courses to players that provide information regarding distances of each hole at a course and other information. The suspects were reportedly taking money under the guise of selling advertisements to go into these booklets.
In addition to selling ads in the booklets, Shelton said the suspects told golf course personnel that the proceeds would go into a “pink lady fund” to support breast cancer research.
“No money ever went into that fund,” Shelton said. “All of the money went into personal accounts.”
Shelton said the suspects took money from each golf course in Wilson County for putting the books together and then went to various businesses in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, allegedly taking money from them for advertising.
Some of the businesses Shelton said the suspects targeted included Cedar Creek Sports in Mt. Juliet, the UPS Store in Mt. Juliet, Smith’s Furniture in Lebanon, McBrien and Kane Attorneys at Law, Kid’s Country Club daycare, Bentley’s Heating and Air and more.
Shelton said the scam began around December 2009 and the suspects continued selling the fakes ads, telling the golf courses and businesses that the books would be ready for the spring and summer golf season of 2010. That’s when Shelton and the Mt. Juliet Police started receiving calls from the concerned businesses.
Local business and golf course representatives called MJPD and were suspecting the trio was involved in a scam after not hearing from the three suspects or seeing the ads or golf booklets. Shelton said the calls were coming in heavily in June and July 2010 when he began investigating.
“I interviewed him (Mickey Ruggiero) and he admitted that they were using the money to pay bills,” Shelton said.
He interviewed both Mickey and Gia Ruggiero, who he said were brother and sister, and found they were using the money to pay various personal bills after they told him they had fallen into serious debt.
“I believe two of them were out of work and the girl (Gia) was working in health care,” Shelton said.
During the interviews, Shelton said the Ruggieros admitted they began to worry when businesses were calling and asking questions about their ads. Shelton said they went to an area printing company and tried to print out false ads, folding them to look like the golf booklets were in the works. He said none of the businesses or golf courses fell for the ruse.
“I never interviewed Paul, but I have enough evidence to prove that he was involved,” Shelton explained.
He also indicated the trio may have targeted some businesses in Davidson County as well. Shelton said the breast cancer fund was an easy way to get people to give money for the ads, believing their contribution was going to a good cause.
“Maximum penalties could put them in jail for a very long time,” Shelton said, adding that the severity of their sentence could range from probation to several years in prison.
After their arrest, Shelton said all three made bond and were released. Shelton said he did not know when the three would appear in court.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.