Police warn homeowners of scammers called 'woodchucks'

Joseph Sprinkel, 30, address unknown, and Virginia Breeden, 49, of Spotsylvania. Photos: Montgomery County Police

Beware of “woodchucks,” police are warning.

Woodchucks are scammers, shady contractors who prey on the elderly, trying to convince them their home is in imminent danger, unless they hire them to repair damage immediately.

Neighbors say the scammers prowled their Olney neighborhood for hours last June before finding just the right victim.

They convinced a 91-year-old man suffering from dementia that his chimney needed nearly $1,000 in repairs and threw a ladder up.

The victim's son arrived 20 minutes later to see what was going on.

The chimney repair man now identified by police as Joseph Sprinkel, 30, claimed he was doing major repairs. The victim's son, who doesn't want to be identified, says that was a lie.

The work that was done wasn't even close to a repair. When viewed from the street it looks nice and shiny. When you get up there it wasn't any improvement to the roof at all.

After he called police, the man says Sprinkel and his female accomplice, Virginia Breeden, 49, of Spotsylvania, drove away.

Breeden was arrested and last month pleaded guilty to contracting without a license. Police only recently learned Sprinkel's identity through a fingerprint and he is now wanted for attempted theft and exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Police fear the couple could be at it again.

“As warm weather approaches, these scammer come out,” says Ofc. Rebecca Innocenti of the Montgomery County Police Department. “They know you’re gonna be looking to do home improvements and repairs to your home. So if someone comes to your house and solicits business, know you don't have to make a decision right away.”