Walker County blogger under investigation after asking for donations to help people in need

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Walker County Sheriff’s Deputies are investigating whether a well-known blogger committed fraud after asking for donations to help people in need.

Terry Keith Hammond, 55, was recently wanted by the Walker County Sheriff’s Office on an unrelated warrant for theft.

Investigators said he operated the Walker County Area News Facebook Page, with around 27,000 followers.

Once Hammond was arrested, deputies posted that they have received complaints about Hammond for years.

“We’ve received a lot of complaints about Mr. Hammond over the last couple of years and have received questions about the legitimacy of various fund-raising efforts he was undertaking here in Walker County,” said Sheriff Jim Underwood in a written statement posted to Facebook.

Investigators later confirmed to CBS 42 that they were asking people who donated to contact the sheriff’s office.

“To anyone that has sent money to Hammond when he’s asked for donations…If you have information on who the money was going to, how much money you sent, and the method you used to send the money (Christmas help, pay power bill, help family in need, etc.) please email the information and your contact number to hammondfraud@walkercountysheriff.com”

With so many followers, neighbors like Linda Smith remember some of the posts on the page.

“Mother with 3 children, has no income, they’re going to turn her electric off, donate straight to my account and we will make sure they get your money,” Smith recalled.

While Smith said she did not give cash, she said she did allow him to keep a set of appliances.

“I thought it was going to the needy, just like everyone else in this community,” said Smith.

Hammond’s daughter, Teri, told CBS 42 that her father has done nothing wrong.

“Every bit of money that is donated goes to a family in need. The matter of fact though is these people prefer to remain anonymous. Nobody wants to admit that they can’t afford their power or their water. They don’t want to be embarrassed by it,” said Teri Hammond.

Instead, Hammond feels like the sheriff’s office has it out for her father. She alleges trouble started after someone posted a video of the Walker County Sheriff, who is up for re-election, to the area news Facebook page.

“One of our admins posted the video and this is kind of fallback from it, it’s all political,” said Teri Hammond.

So far, Hammond has not been charged with a crime related to ask for donations. Sgt. Ralph Williams with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office confirmed an investigation is currently ongoing.

Deputies will be sorting through the information sent in to the e-mail address they created. 

The full release from Walker County Sheriff Jim Underwood is here:

On May 5, 2018, Terry Keith Hammond, age 55, of Jasper, was arrested for Felony Theft of Property 2nd degree.

On Tuesday, May 1st, Investigators went to Hammond‘s residence in Manchester attempting to locate him on the felony theft warrant. That sparked a response from Hammond using his Walker County Area News Facebook page, which has 27,000 followers. Hammond made false allegations and berated the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office issued a response on Wednesday which has since reached over 47,500 social media users.

”After posting the information, we received complaints from 19 different people on Hammond ranging from bullying, harassment, stalking, soliciting sex, and publicly posting things to target and humiliate his detractors using his social media account. There’s an old saying that you don’t upset an organization that buys ink by the barrel, such as a newspaper. In today’s age, that phrase can be applied to people that have large followings on Facebook and other platforms. So, when Mr. Hammond was called out or challenged by citizens who were questioning his behavior he used his “barrel of ink” to shut them up. That is evident in his fruitless attempt to bully the Office of the Sheriff.” Sheriff Underwood said.

After the Sheriff’s Office posted the information, numerous citizens began providing information on possible locations for Hammond. Sheriff’s Investigators relayed the information to the Jackson Police Department and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office. The Jackson Police Department spent a lot of time conducting surveillance of Hammond’s radio station. On Saturday, a citizen provided an address that the Clarke County Deputies followed up on. The deputies went to the address and were met with resistance, with one occupant resisting arrest and refusing to cooperate, while Hammond hid in a bedroom. The deputies located Hammond in the residence and took him into custody along with the other male that resisted arrest. The Walker County Sheriff’s Office immediately sent deputies down to extradite Hammond back to the Walker County Jail.

Over the last couple of months, Hammond allegedly agreed as an “engineer” at Broadcast Technical Services of Jasper to repair an AM radio transmitter for a victim from the State of Maryland. The victim shipped the module to Hammond, who then told the victim he needed an additional $1,150 to complete the repair. The victim thought he was dealing with a professional repair company but became suspicious when Hammond instructed him to wire the money to a personal bank account routing number and account number here in Jasper. The victim did a google search and found articles and posts describing the extensive criminal background of Hammond and then realized he was dealing with a con artist. Hammond posted the module for sale on Facebook, refusing to return it to the victim, and claiming that he seized it under mechanic’s lien laws.

Sgt. Anthony Leach’s investigation revealed that Hammond has been arrested in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Nevada. Hammond currently has outstanding warrants with Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for Failure to Appear as well as warrants with Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office for Resisting Arrest. Hammond was convicted in 2004 of Felony Theft in Texas, and as a result, his FCC license was revoked by the FCC. The Texas conviction was for altering checks received by the radio station and depositing them into a bank account he controlled. Hammond also had allegedly violated FCC rules by engaging in multiple instances of unauthorized operation of unlicensed radio stations in California, Louisiana, and Texas. Hammond also has previous Alabama arrests for Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, and Reckless Endangerment.

Hammond purportedly manages the WQJJ 101.9 Fox-FM radio station in Jasper and he also ran the “Walker County Area News” Facebook page up until he was placed in the county jail. He is currently being held on a $25,000 cash bond because he is a flight risk based on his most recent actions and his history of failure to appear. Mr. Hammonds wife, Bessie Price Hammond, also managed the Walker County Area News Facebook page. She is currently wanted by the District Attorney’s Office in Woodward, Oklahoma for Obtaining Cash or Merchandise by Bogus Check.

“It appears that Mr. Hammond has a pattern of getting into trouble in one city and then relocating to another, even moving from state to state,” Underwood said. “It’s a shame when someone like this is interacting with our community through a radio station and Facebook news page, both being venues where citizens share information and where they spend their advertising dollars. We’ve received a lot of complaints about Mr. Hammond over the last couple of years and have received questions about the legitimacy of various fund-raising efforts he was undertaking here in Walker County. After he resolves his criminal case here, he might as well find somewhere else to go because we’re not going to tolerate this type of activity.”

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