An anonymous tip to Fairfax County police has led to the arrest of a man suspected of being a federal prison escapee wanted for questioning in a home-improvement scheme that police said bilked 11 county residents of $14,402. h

Joseph Harvey Ferguson Jr., 45, was arrested in his Altoona, Pa., home Tuesday by local police and the FBI, authorities said, after Fairfax police received a tip through the county's Crime Solvers program. The program pays informants for tips that lead to indictment of a suspect.

Investigators in Northern Virginia said they are investigating 11 cases from last summer in which a contractor offered to perform home improvements in return for a 50 percent cash down payment for supplies. The contractor disappeared after receiving the money, according to Lt. Tom Danzig.

"It happens quite often," said Frank Lantini of the Fairfax Department of Environmental Management. "[The victims] are very gullible people. Some will put out $2,000 or $3,000 cash for work that never gets done."

Ferguson was described as an escapee from the federal prison at Walpole, Mass., and is wanted for construction fraud in Texas as well as for parole and probation violations in Atlanta, police said. He also is wanted on other charges in two Pennsylvania jurisdictions, according to police.

Fairfax police said they have issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of fraudulently obtaining money from a homeowner.