'I was scared and I didn’t know what to do': Victim of Hardee's impostor speaks out

Jeff Bobo • Mar 2, 2018 at 12:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — It was an observant 17-year-old Rogersville Hardee’s employee who urged her shift manager to call police Sunday night after realizing something wasn’t right about a man posing as an employee of a sister store who had been sent to help.

It turns out that the man was a wanted fugitive — Jeffrey Blair Welch, 28, of Kingsport.

Welch used a false name, and he had a realistic looking fake gun, mask and wig in his car.

It was a scary event in the life of Cherokee High School senior Olivia Clark, who was working that night.

Welch was arrested by Rogersville police around midnight Sunday after working at the restaurant for about two hours. He was charged with criminal impersonation, theft, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was also found to be wanted in Sullivan County on multiple charges.

Clark recently spoke with the Times News about the events of that night.

What was the situation leading up to Welch’s arrival?

We had closed the doors early because we were slammed, so our doors were locked, and only our drive-thru was open.

This businessman (Welch) came to our door, and the papers he was carrying looked like from our franchise.

We had called our general manager and let her know that our drive-thru times were going to be bad and that we were short-handed.

So, he backed up in his car into the drive-thru and said, “Hey, I’m from the Hardee’s on Parkview Avenue in Bristol, and my manager sent me around to different stores in our area to see if you guys needed any help.”

Not like he was going to come in and help. But he was coming to see what we needed.

When he came in (the lobby), we explained to him that we were short-handed today and our store was looking worse than it normally does. That’s when he offered to come in and work. He said he was clocked in at his other store, so we didn’t have to worry about paying him or clocking in at our store.

How did Welch end up working behind the counter?

In the midst of us talking, my shift leader got an order, so we had to go out of the lobby and back into the kitchen and make it, and the next time we turned around, he was already behind the counter washing dishes.

He knew where everything was, and he mentioned the manager at the other store. It happened at such a perfect time because we were short-handed, and we had let our GM know (that the restaurant was short-handed). There was no reason to question his motive.

How did you become suspicious?

He didn’t have his phone on him, so he asked if he could log into his messenger on my phone, and I said, “Sure.” (Afterwards) he sat my phone down to go back and wash dishes, so I took my phone and saw his messenger was logged in, and I read some of his messages, like he had a bounty hunter after him.

I was curious about it and I let my shift leader know about it, and she was like, “Let’s see what happens.” She said, “We don’t know what’s going on with his home life. He can still work for us and have stuff like that happen to him.”

So, I went into the bathroom with my phone and called the Parkway store, and it turned out they had no idea who he was. After that, I sent my dad a text message because I was scared and I didn’t know what to do.

I told my dad to come down there and sit with us in the lobby so that we weren’t alone in the store with him.

The guy was generally nice, and he told me that he normally worked on the back line at Hardee’s. I wanted to see how far he would go because it was really a lie. So I asked him what was his favorite thing to make on back line, and he couldn’t even tell me the first thing on our menu.

He didn’t know our district manager’s name, and everyone knows her name because she’s always in our stores. His stories weren’t adding up.

How did the police get involved?

I just kind of brushed it off and let him think I wasn’t suspicious, and he said he was going to take the trash out, and he took my phone with him. He was like, do you trust me to take your phone, and I was like, “Whatever.” I didn’t want to get on his nerves because I was afraid of what he was going to do. He had a bag on him. I didn’t know what was in the bag. Once I realized what his intentions were, I was nervous. He left me with what he said was his birth certificate, and he said, “You have something of mine and I have something of yours.”

He grabbed his bag and took the trash out, and it didn’t make sense to me why he would do that if he was coming right back. Then I thought he was going to come back in with a weapon or something, and that’s when my shift leader decided to call the police. They responded within about two minutes and he was still outside, and they subdued him and put him in the patrol car.

What was he like the two hours he worked?

In those two hours, he was just being normal and doing work. He was doing what anybody who would come in to help would do. He didn’t start being sketchy until the end of the shift. He started asking about the money. He said, “What do you guys do with your night drop?”

He was asking if we call the police for our night drop or if we roll our money at night. That’s when I was really glad my dad was there (sitting in the lobby). He (Welch) was really nice, but who knows what would have happened when the drawers came out with the money? It was about 10 minutes before we closed that he took the garbage out and we called the police.

This happened on the perfect day for someone to come try to do that. It’s my opinion that someone had been watching our store.

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