More WNY florists report deception by man of many names

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – A man of many identities has been baffling local florists longer than first thought.

Call 4 Action has learned, back in December, the man using the name “Billy Pannell” is accused of taking money from a florist shop in Niagara County, without delivering the goods.

That was a month before his antics put a West Seneca shop out of business.

“He’s believable. He knew everything about the floral industry,” says “Molly,” a flower shop owner not using her real name who wanted to share her dismal experience with Call 4 Action while avoiding notoriety.

Pannell showed up at Molly’s store, offering to help boost business by soliciting funeral home accounts. We are also withholding the name of the flower shop.

Molly recalled, “He seemed to get along with everybody, had a great personality, very friendly, and that’s how it started.”

Pannell then convinced Molly he could get her some faster used computers to replace the store’s old slower models, and she paid him $90, but the computers never came.

Then there was an order for orchids, and Pannell said he had connections with a wholesaler in Florida. Molly paid $200 for the orchids, “and again, they never showed up.”

But Molly sold some of the orchid plants, so to make good on the orders, she had to buy the orchids from another florist, at full price.

But the man Molly knows as Billy Pannell might have pulled the same kind of ruse with a florist in Baltimore, who knows him as “Billy Russell Tomlinson.”

The Baltimore florist, Chris Psoras says Tomlinson convinced her to buy flowers from a Florida supplier

“He told me that he had a wholesaler in Miami,” she said.

Psoras, the long-time, respected owner of Flowers by Chris, never received the flowers from Miami, and she too paid “Tomlinson” for computers that were never delivered, last year.

The Baltimore florist says she lost thousands of dollars in her ordeal.

“I just wish someone would catch him and put him in jail for a long time.”

This same man bowled over owners of The Plaid Petunia in West Seneca, taking orders from brides-to-be that will probably never get filled. But the name this man used in his dealings with The Plaid Petunia was “Russell Pannell.”

Molly, the Niagara County florist, estimates her losses from her Pannell dealings could surpass $2,000, and Molly says she hopes he gets caught.

“I hope he does because it is damaging to a lot of people,” she said.

Call 4 Action also learned Billy Russell Tomlinson was arrested as far back as 2007 in South Carolina.

Detectives in Niagara Falls and West Seneca are investigating these incidents, and a number of complaints have been filed with the New York Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.

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