HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Hendersonville Police Department, working with the U.S. Secret Service, cracked one of the more elaborate organized crime cases you will hear about.
The investigation began more than two years ago, and detectives are still making arrests and chasing down leads.
Hendersonville police say the alleged mastermind, once arrested, continued to operate his criminal enterprise from behind bars inside the Sumner County Jail.
The case began in January 2020 when a Sumner County home builder, Tim Wheeler, got a bill from the Hendersonville Lowes for $36,000.
Andy Cordan: “How did they pretend to be you?”
Tim Wheeler: “That is what I would like to know, because when I go in I have to show my ID. I was pretty upset.”
Police said the con men used Wheeler’s company to steal washers, dryers, refrigerators, toolboxes and lumber.
It’s very expensive material that Wheeler said he never ordered.
“It’s not something we usually buy,” Wheeler said. “We buy stuff to build homes with.”
When Wheeler complained, he said Lowes told him his company would have to accept the fraudulent charges.
Wheeler said he was dissatisfied with that response and went to the Hendersonville police who quickly accepted the case.
Hendersonville Police Detective Thomas Holman worked with the Secret Service Task Force. He got the case and quickly began unraveling this elaborate scheme.
“This is one of the most bizarre cases I’ve worked,” Holman said.
Within a few days, there was a break in the case when Holman arrested Jackson, Mississippi man, William Nolan.
The 50-year-old implicated himself in the crime and went to the Sumner County Jail.
“I discovered that Mr. Nolan created a criminal enterprise,” Holman said.
Months into the investigation, while trying to find the missing equipment, Holman listened in to the jail phone calls made by the 50-year-old and was shocked by what he heard.
“He would get a shopping list of sorts, he would tell the Lowes staff that he would send someone on his crew to pick those items up,” Holman said.
According to Holman, Nolan was on the jail phone for 12 hours a day, making calls to his crew on the outside. Holman says Nolan was able to make three-way calls and talk to Lowes personnel across the Mid-South, pretending to be contractors and ordering hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment.
From the jail house, Nolan choreographed pick-ups between his crew and the various stores that are in Nashville, Kentucky, Mississippi and even Indiana.
When asked how he could steal so much from a major corporation from his jail cell, the 12-year veteran said Lowes security is lax.
“There could be a lot more safeguards in place,” Holman said.
Holman said, because of this case, Lowes is tightening its security in these matters.
It took almost two years, but Holman arrested two more alleged ring members — Rhonda Anderson, 49, of Lafayette, Tennessee, and Graham Kelly, 34, of Pearl, Mississippi. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Nolan is charged with the following:
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering
- Identity theft (x3)
- Felony theft (x7)
- Organized retail crime
Holman said the theft is approaching $250,000. “We can prove over $220,000 right now,” Holman paused, saying that the actual theft total is probably much more.
The good news: Tim Wheeler got his money back. He credited the Hendersonville Police Department for all of his good fortune. He said he has had no more incidents since.
“I was overwhelmingly satisfied,” Wheeler said about the HPD response to his case.
Wheeler said there are many more victims out there because he has talked to several contractors, one as far away as Michigan.
Cordan: “I’m still boggled that you can walk into Lowes and walk out with $36,000 worth of stuff just saying I’m so and so?”
Wheeler: “Me too, because I’m the owner. I’m the check signer, and when I go in there, they ask for lots of information.”
When asked about the alleged mastermind, William Nolan, in jail, Detective Holman said, “He was cooperative. He admitted his level of involvement. He is smooth on the phone.”
When asked what Nolan is getting out of it, Holman said, “He had some bank accounts created for him and he would take proceeds back into the jail phone, commissary, and give it to other inmates to maximize the commissary services, he was on the phone 12-plus hours a day, and they charge for every phone call. He had his own criminal enterprise encompassing three other states that we know of.”
We reached out to Lowes for comment; so far we’ve not heard back.
Hendersonville police say the investigation continues and may be picked up by the Secret Service. More arrests are possible.