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Alleged con man extradited
Suspect in scam could also face local charges
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Forsyth County News

Authorities arrived Monday to pick up an Ohio man wanted in Pennsylvania for reportedly cheating businesses out of about $75,000.

Robert Melzer, 63, of 2650 Gateview Court was arrested Nov. 7 by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and held pending extradition.

He faces felony charges of theft by deception and fraudulent business practices.

Melzer, who also faces a class-action lawsuit in Pennsylvania, allegedly sold advertising space for a phonebook that was never published.

It appears Melzer, along with his partner David Urda, brought the scam from Erie, Pa., to Forsyth earlier this fall.

Mark DiJohn, owner of the Donut Connection on Bethelview Road, and Michelle Freiberger, one of Melzer's former employees, helped authorities find the suspect.

They met Monday with officers from the Pennsylvania State Police and gave statements about Melzer's activities in Forsyth.

DiJohn said the officers asked if he and Freiberger would testify once the case against Melzer goes to trial.

"I told them I'd absolutely go up there," DiJohn said. "I don't want him to do this anymore ... I'm just glad he's off the street."

DiJohn said Pennsylvania authorities are also building a case against Urda, whose whereabouts are not known.

"They know he was up there in Pennsylvania, but in Pennsylvania I guess he acted like he was a victim," DiJohn said. "So I guess there wasn't a big quest to find him.

"But now they've found out he was down here, the police said it just shows that there is a connection and he is more than just a salesman."

Urda, who was reportedly living at Melzer's house, has taken off. DiJohn said the officers told him Melzer's wife fled for Pennsylvania about two hours after authorities picked him up.

Freiberger, who went to work for the men in mid-October, said ads were sold to clients in Dawson, Forsyth and North Fulton counties.

She said the phonebook, called "Our Town Yellow/White Pages," was scheduled for release in spring 2009.

She got suspicious when Melzer refused to show her a copy of his business license. He then paid her late with a bad check.

DiJohn allowed Melzer and Urda to use his eatery for business meetings and employee training in exchange for advertising.

But DiJohn and Freiberger soon caught onto the scam. After talking with Pennsylvania police, they concocted a plan to keep Melzer in Forsyth long enough for authorities to catch up to him.

They baited him with the promise of an $8,000 sale from a business near DiJohn's restaurant.

DiJohn said Melzer came into his store three times a day in anticipation of collecting the money.

Until the phonebook's due date passes, a crime has not been committed in Forsyth County. As a result, local authorities have not brought charges against Melzer or Urda.

DiJohn said he's ready for that day to come.

"Apparently, he did this scam in Ohio as well, but it wasn't as big," he said. "He did something in Ohio and then he went to Erie and he did it big. Then he came here and I really think he saw Atlanta as the cash cow."

DiJohn said he did not think charges have been brought against Melzer in Ohio.