Tonight is the series premiere of TLC’s Gypsy Sisters as the network brings back its breakout stars the Stanley Sisters from My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding for their own spin-off reality series. Kayla, Nettie and Laura all bring an entertaining superdose of Romany gypsy drama and attitude, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the show’s true drama dynamo is Mellie Stanley. The rebellious 23-year-old is reality TV gold thanks in part to her propensity for alcohol consumption, stripping, and not taking any sh*t from anybody.
But, viewers might be surprised to find out that “Hellie Mellie” isn’t the most notorious of the Stanley ladies — not by a long shot. This season she reunites with her mother, 61-year-old Lottie Mae Stanley, who has just completed a nine-year prison sentence after being convicted of bank fraud in 2004. The conviction came after a string of cons spread out over at least 11 states that had federal authorities looking for Lottie for more than six years. The crime spree even landed Lottie a starring role on America’s Most Wanted in March of 2003!
“She is one of the smoothest talkers you will ever run into,” Detective Vince Chalecki, of Sugarcreek Township Police in suburban Dayton, Ohio, said of the way Lottie operates. According to Enquirer.com, she used small talk, acted forgetful, and employed “her 13-year-old daughter to gain trust and further confuse young bank tellers into releasing account information.”
Just in case you were wondering, yes Mellie was 13 years old at the time of her mother’s arrest! More from Enquirer.com:
Stanley also had four of her children in tow – among them two sons, 5 and 8, and a 13-year-old daughter, who police said sometimes accompanied her mother on bank jobs. Investigators said the girl had rolled wads of money – thousands of dollars – in her pockets when federal and local police descended on their home in a raid last week.
Lottie Mae Stanley (seen above in a mug shot photo from 2004) would use any means necessary to gain checking account information from individuals then manipulate bank tellers into allowing her to withdraw funds, often after a large fake deposit.
Last year, Stanley convinced a bank teller at the American National Bank in Rockwell, Texas, to give her a deposit slip with a customer’s account number on it and deposited a bogus check for $5,500. She then asked for a balance and withdrew $1,900, according to the plea agreement.
In other cases, she obtained the account information of a bank customer, then deposited a stolen check into the account, asking the bank to give her half of the deposit amount immediately in cash, according to the FBI.
From Lottie’s appeal of her no contest plea:
The incident which forms the basis for Stanley’s conviction and sentence occurred on September 2, 2001, when she allegedly entered a First Star Bank located in a Cub Foods grocery store in Sugarcreek Township, Ohio. Stanley presented a stolen check to the bank teller in the amount of $5,100.00 after she forged the victim’s name on the check as well as on the deposit slip she used to deposit that sum into her account. Stanley also forged another victim’s signature on a second check and presented that check for immediate withdrawal. Stanley received approximately $1,000.00 in the transaction.
An AP article in The Nevada Daily Mail in 2004 gave the details of one of Lottie’s scams that occurred at the First National Bank of the Midsouth in Sikeston, Mo.:
Stanley told a teller she wanted to close a personal account and open a business account for her floral shop, court records showed.
She identified herself as Mary Martin, and the teller gave her information indicating she was the third party on an account belonging to Thomas and Martha Smith. The teller also gave her the account number and balance.
Then, Stanley went to another branch of the same bank, identified herself this time as Martha Smith, and said she wanted to close her account.
She chatted about the teller’s hair, and the account was closed; Stanley was given the account balance of more than $7,000, [U.S. Attorney Ray] Gruender said.
In her guilty plea, Stanley said she used the same technique and others eight additional times in Missouri, at banks in Ellisville, High Ridge, Arnold, Hannibal, Moberly, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.
Records indicated Stanley also defrauded banks in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, South Dakota, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee.
So how did Lottie Mae Stanley get caught? In addition to her own children, Lottie and her husband Aaron Telke also had a few runaways with them, two of which were caught after passing a stolen check at a Symmes Township Kohl’s. Their arrest eventually led back to Lottie and her husband, Aaron. Aaron was also arrested and charged with harboring his wife as a fugitive. He was released a short time later because the U.S. attorneys didn’t have enough evidence to hold him.
In total, Lottie Mae Stanley is believed to have scammed more than $800,000 from banks in eleven states. However, that doesn’t include Lottie’s earlier criminal endeavors, which are apparently rather widespread. (More on that in a second) For her bank fraud conviction, Lottie was sentenced to more than ten years in prison and was ordered to pay $204,909 in restitution.
So, where did that $800,000 go? It seems Lottie Mae Stanley had a serious gambling problem. “After she gets that money, she goes immediately to the nearest casino. She is a compulsive gambler. In my case, she went to Grand Victoria, Argosy and Belterra,” Detective Chalecki said.
But don’t think for a second that the 11-state crime wave was the first time Lottie dabbled in criminal mischief! Records indicate she first went to prison in 1969 while still a teenager in North Carolina. “Chalecki said Stanley’s arrest record since 1987 includes charges of forgery, theft by deception and passing bad checks in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and her native Pennsylvania. In Dearborn and Hamilton counties, she has been at work off and on since 1997, striking typically at grocery store bank marts during busy hours, and clearing out her victims’ accounts using stolen or counterfeit checks.”
I’m not certain what the reason is, but most of the mug shot photos of Lottie Mae Stanley in this post (including the one above) were actually from August of 2012. My guess is that she still had outstanding warrants for crimes other than the bank fraud she was convicted of and was picked up and transferred to different facilities, each of which took a new booking photo? Or maybe these were all taken prior to her release? Perhaps these recent mug shot photos of Lottie Mae Stanley will be explained on the show.
Here is a photo of Lottie Mae Stanley as a free woman, shared by her sister on Facebook:
I just cannot imagine what it was like for Mellie growing up in that environment! Learning more about her mother and all that happened to Mellie as a consequence has certainly changed my perspective a bit.
As I mentioned above, Gypsy Sisters premieres on TLC tonight at 9/8c with back-to-back one-hour episodes. I assume after that it will air weekly at 9/8c. Tune in to see what has to be one of the most dramatic mother/daughter reunions in reality television history!