The suspicions of a Forsyth County woman have helped lead to the arrest of a 63-year-old alleged con man from Ohio.
Robert Melzer of 2650 Gateview Court was arrested Friday by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office on felony charges of theft by deception and fraudulent business practices.
Melzer, who was wanted in Pennsylvania, will remain in custody at the Forsyth County Detention Center pending extradition, a jail spokeswoman said.
It appears Melzer brought a telephone directory scam to Forsyth County earlier this fall.
About a month ago, Michelle Frieberger started selling advertisements for Melzer and his partner, David Urda, to clients in North Fulton, Forsyth and Dawson counties.
The men ran a company called OTG Enterprises and she said the ads were for a phone book called "Our Town Yellow/White Pages," scheduled for release in spring 2009.
Mark DiJohn, owner of Donut Connection on Bethelview Road, allowed Melzer and Urda to use his store for business meetings and employee training in exchange for advertising.
DiJohn said Tuesday that Melzer's arrest was an example of justice being served.
"I'm bringing him doughnuts tomorrow," he said. "I'm going to let him know I know he's there."
Among the other possible victims, DiJohn said, are a lawyer and a fence company.
"The sad part is, it's bad enough to do that anyway, but this economy does not call for that," he said. "That's when I think everybody's got to stand up and say we're not going to tolerate it."
At the request of some clients, Freiberger said she asked Melzer about two weeks ago for a copy of OTG's business license, but he never provided it.
"When I asked that question he got real nervous," she said. "He said, 'Nobody's ever asked me for that before. I'll have to see if I can get a copy of that.' So I continued to go on."
She became more suspicious a few days later when Melzer refused to pay her.
"Then he paid me a check that was no good," she said.
That's when she searched his name on the Internet and found an Erie, Pa., newspaper article from January detailing a class-action lawsuit against Melzer.
The lawsuit contends Melzer bilked several businesses out of various sums of money paid for advertisements between 2006 and 2007.
Reports said the ads were sold for a phone book that was never published. The checks had been cashed, but Melzer disappeared.
Freiberger reported her suspicions to the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 31.
Local authorities couldn't do much, she said, because a crime had not yet been committed in Georgia.
She then called some of the advertisers named in the Pennsylvania article.
In addition to the lawsuit, Freiberger said they told her authorities were conducting a criminal investigation on Melzer and directed her to the Pennsylvania State Police.
She alerted Pennsylvania authorities to Melzer's whereabouts.
"I started talking to them and gave them all the information and they started working on a warrant for his arrest," she said.
She then met with DiJohn. They devised a plan to stall Melzer until authorities could pick him up.
The two kept Melzer preoccupied by promising him that a business near DiJohn's eatery had agreed to pay for an $8,000 ad.
"We lost about $350 in food," DiJohn said. "We kept him here because we lured him in with a big deal.
"He fell for it, and stayed in town, and the police were thankfully able to get him."
Freiberger said she thinks Urda fled the Forsyth County home he shared with Melzer before authorities could close in.
She said the advertising space she sold was in amounts ranging from $200 to $1,300, though some clients traded services.
For example, she said, a mattress distributor traded a $1,200 mattress for advertising and a dentist's office provided about $500 worth of dental work for Melzer's wife.