A man accused of meeting a woman online, defrauding her out $80,000 and using the proceeds to purchase a BMW is in custody in Georgia without bond, according to jail records.
But for years, multiple jurisdictions in at least four other states have had warrants out for 35-year-old John Martin Hill’s arrest under various names. Authorities said more than once, he posted bail and vanished.
Investigators did not quantify the number of cases connected to Hill, but they confirmed he has changed his name five times within the last few years.
According to Gwinnett County police, he was previously known as Gregory Dutton, Gregory Davis, George Hill, Maverick McCray and Gregory Hill, and was wanted in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
‘Stop Gregory Hill’
Hill's alleged exploits extend back as far as 2005, Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Wilbert Rundles told WSB-TV.
West Long Branch police in New Jersey arrested Hill in 2011 on "several outstanding warrants and charged him with three counts of theft by deception," according to Long Branch-Eatontown Patch, an online news site in that area.
There, Hill was accused of taking money from young women after advertising a job on Craigslist.
https://t.co/1eeQItMW6C user bought BMW with $80K from woman he promised to marry, Gwinnett police say https://t.co/1w2JrULErN pic.twitter.com/xSibI4T7J2— AJC (@ajc) June 6, 2019
"Each woman reported that they made contact with a Gregory Hill," West Long Branch police Capt. Larry Mihlon told Patch soon after Hill's arrest. "Hill made claims of being a CEO and owner of a company that specialized in obtaining scholarships for high school athletes."
Some of the company names used by Hill were College Bound Recruits and Athlon Sports, he said. Mihlon told Patch that after Hill made contact with the women seeking employment, he would set up an interview with the women and would ask for cash up front after taking their information.
In 2014, a Facebook page was created, detailing even more allegations against Hill. Its name: Stop Gregory Hill.
Bar exam money
Years later, police in Maryland obtained an arrest warrant for Hill, who had legally changed his name to Gregory Davis Dutton.
According to a statement from the Montgomery County police department in Maryland, Dutton met a woman on a dating website in April 2017 and defrauded her out of about $4,500.
The woman told police Dutton asked for the money “under the false pretense that he was attending law school and needed the money to take a bar exam.”
Police said Dutton wrote the woman a check to repay the debt in June of that year, but it was returned for insufficient funds. After the woman became aware of the bad check, she said Dutton cut off all ties with her.
Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office
Credit: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office
“The victim also was notified that Dutton had applied for financing a new car using the victim’s name and personal information,” police said. Maryland authorities said several other attempts were made at financial institutions using the woman’s name.
Dutton was stopped by University of Maryland police in December 2017 for driving an Acura with a license plate stolen from South Carolina. The Acura was bought using a bad check, Montgomery County detectives said.
It was found at that time Dutton had an additional alias of Gregory William Hill and had an outstanding arrest warrant for fraud from the Delaware State police.
The details of Hill’s alleged fraud in Delaware are unclear.
Detectives took out a warrant for Dutton’s arrest, and he was taken into custody in Washington, D.C., detectives said. When he was extradited back to Montgomery County, he posted bond and disappeared again, investigators said.
A new name
Gwinnett County investigators said Hill processed several name changes in South Carolina, where he is originally from. According to South Carolina law, one can legally petition a court for a name change.
However, divorce and family law attorney Carolyn Bone said that process is accompanied by a series of affidavits and a 15-minute court hearing.
“You have to provide all the names you’ve ever used,” she said. “You have to state if you are trying to evade an arrest or warrant.”
Related: Man wanted in $80K dating scheme arrested in Tennessee
South Carolina law also requires a person petition for a name change to undergo a fingerprint and criminal background check.
“If a petitioner is found to have a criminal record as indicated by the background check and the court grants the petition for a name change, the clerk of court must notify the State Law Enforcement Division of the petitioner's new name,” the law states. “The division must make the appropriate changes to the petitioner's criminal record.”
The details surrounding Hill’s name changes are not clear. Gwinnett police confirm the man had legally assumed the name “John Martin Hill” when he moved to Georgia.
Gwinnett detectives said Hill has been in the state of Georgia for as many as two years. In the days leading up to the alleged online dating fraud, he was living in a Duluth apartment with $6 to his name, according to WSB-TV.
According to investigators, the scheme started March 27. WSB-TV reported the woman is a widowed mother of three children. Hill connected with her on Match.com, police previously said.
Hill and the Alpharetta woman exchanged messages on the dating site and arranged to meet in person later the same day.
The proposal came next.
“During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said. “They went house-hunting and selected a home they were interested in.”
The woman thought her $80,000 contribution would help with a down payment on the home and buy the couple some furniture.
Once the money changed hands, the woman did not hear from him again, Pihera said. The woman didn’t know Hill was already living in an apartment in Duluth with another woman and a child, according to police.
Police released a photo of Hill and asked for the public’s help to locate him. Before the day was out, he was behind bars in Franklin, Tennessee, Pihera said.
According to police in Franklin, officers tracked Hill to a Marriott hotel May 21 acting on a tip. When they confronted him, Hill allegedly darted into a hotel conference room and hid under a table. He came out on officer’s orders and was arrested.
Hill was held in the Williamson County Jail in Franklin until he was extradited to Georgia this week, jail records show.
He said very little when he appeared before a judge Wednesday on a theft by deception charge, according to WSB-TV.
The so called Sweetheart Swindler appeared in court as police say their phones are still ringing from more jilted women. I tracked down the sweet ride cops say John Martin Hill bought with the cash from his latest victim. At 6. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/idRAY0ifvs— Tony Thomas (@TonyThomasWSB) June 5, 2019
Police said he bought a BMW 535d with the $80,000 the widow gave him. The vehicle was parked outside the Duluth apartment when WSB-TV went by the community Wednesday. A woman answered the door at the residence but quickly shut down once Hill's name was mentioned, the news station reported.
“By sharing this story, it is our hope that he is not able to victimize any other women using this scam,” Pihera previously said.
Authorities are encouraging other women who think they are a victim of fraud to contact their local police department.
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