Charlotte area businessman jailed in Ponzi scheme now accused in hit-and-run death

Jerry Lynn Helms
Jerry Lynn Helms

The man Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police charged Monday in a fatal hit and run is the same Jerry Lynn Helms who went to prison in 2014 for orchestrating an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Helms pleaded guilty in 2014 to swindling his investors out of tens of thousands of dollars, with a plan that called for buying and reselling heavy equipment. However, instead of investing their money, he put it toward a futile attempt to save his own business, Prestige Pipeline in Belmont.

Helms got out of prison in December 2015.

On Monday, he was back behind bars in Charlotte, after being accused of running down a pedestrian Sunday night in the 3900 block of Freedom Drive. The pedestrian died at the scene, after Helms sped away, police said. Police have not released the victim’s name.

Court records show Helms, who lives in Cramerton, has a prior conviction of driving while intoxicated in 2009.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police haven’t said how they tracked down Helms Monday, but did say that they were helped by sheriff’s departments in Lancaster and Chester counties of South Carolina.

The fatal hit and run occurred about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. A witness told police a vehicle ran a red light on Ashley Road, turned left onto Freedom Drive, then struck the pedestrian, officials said.

A 2013 Gaston Gazette article reported Helms was penniless and his Belmont home was empty and in foreclosure.

His business, Prestige Pipeline, had at one time been worth $7 million, but collapsed in the economic downturn, it was reported.