Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scam Artists...

About six months ago I saw a man and a woman near an intersection in Smithville holding signs. The signs had pictures of a young boy along with the words "Donations for funeral" and "Please help" and "2005-2009".

I thought "That's pretty rough". Drivers passing by must have thought so too, because they were handing five and ten dollar bills out the windows. It occurred to me that it must suck to have to stand on the street to ask for money for your child's funeral. I genuinely felt bad for those folks.

Until yesterday...

I saw the same folks, near the same intersection, with the same signs. The only difference was the signs now said 2006-2010. Needless to say, I was pissed. People were still blindly handing money out the window to these people, because they had signs that tugged at the heart-strings. And I even bought it the first time.

They were very fortunate I was not on duty when I saw them. I'll be looking for them this week though. What they are doing is a crime.

Yes, asking for donations for a funeral that isn't going to happen is a crime in California. It's called theft under false pretenses.

It's almost enough to make me mention the real location of Smithville, so folks know not to trust these bastards.

Almost...

26 comments:

KD said...

Wow! That is pretty creative. I am so skeptical I probably would go home and google the little kid's name first before I went back and gave a donation. So sad that the world is like this. :(

I wonder how poor those folks really are. If you find out please update us.

the observer said...

I pretty much never donate to panhandlers on the street.

They are usually lying. I might be more apt to give if your sign says, "Need a pint of Thunderbird for the day."

In addition, people have been robbed and assaulted here in KC metro when they roll down their car windows to interact and give things to these people.

Just say no.

MJ said...

OOOOOH, that really pisses me off.

Hope they're out, and you catch the bastards.

clady said...

The nerve of those people. Have they no shame? I'd like to hear how that arrest turns out.

I bet this isn't the first time they've scammed people.

Pavel said...

So, a few questions, I guess.

1. Why couldn't you call it in? I understand that as far as crimes go, that's not really a huge one, and your coworkers might have bigger things to deal with, but it still seems like calling the department might have been a good idea.

2. When you are off-duty, can you still arrest people as an officer? (Apart from citizen's arrest, which has always been a gray area in my mind anyway.)

FlyTrap50 said...

Made me think of this.

http://images.chickencrap.com/images/4127.jpg

Front Porch Society said...

These kind of scams happened all the time in Memphis. I would see the same man & woman pulling one scam at one street corner and then a week later standing at another street corner with a different story.

HonkingAntelope said...

Have you thought that maybe they had another child a year later in 2006 and lost the poor kid to the same malady as the previous one?

Haha, just kidding. Good luck with nailing those lowlives with every single statute you can think of. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch...

Triple Beeper said...

Sad but true that I don't think you have to mention your town to tell people not to trust panhandlers. Regardless of the cause, there is somewhere you can donate that they would benefit from if they REALLY needed the help.

Ann T. said...

Dear Officer Smith,
My most recent panhandler story involved a guy who was of an age to be a Vietnam vet, sitting with his back against a trash can in long haired, grey bearded Buddha mode.

Then I read his t-shirt; show me your t--s.

Nothing for you, bubba, figure out that priority first,
Ann T.

And omg, my comment password is 'payer'

Melissa said...

Ugh. Please go get them. This is why I NEVER give out money to beggars. I'll stick with charities I trust, thanks...

Jay said...

People like that make me sick to my stomach. It always seems like they are not only obtaining money under false pretences but also mocking people who do have genuine problems.
Over here we had some woman claiming to have cancer while collecting money.Of course it turned out that she didn't have cancer. I wonder if she ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf.
Anyway go get'em. I hope they make the mistake of showing themselves in front of you very soon and I also hope your book throwing arm is all limbered up.

Firelady said...

I am one of those smartasses that will go buy a burger off the McD's dollar menu and give it to a panhandler that "needs money for food" just to piss them off.

Black Ice said...

That is completely and utterly vile.

When I was broke and homeless, I never sat on the corner with a sign. I've seen folks who do, and was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt...until I saw this.

Now, Officer Smith, I would NOT, for EVEN a MOMENT suggest that these people be investigated in any way. And I certainly hope that no one who's actually lost a child be made aware of this scam. This could lead to lawsuits and media coverage, and we shouldn't start controversy around here.


(BTW, my verification word is 'blessed.' The most ironic word for an atheist like EVER. ;D )

The Officer said...

I don't contribute to panhandlers. I have a friend that is an officer in California too and he told me a story about following a panhandler. The panhandler left his corner and got into an expensive car and drove it to his Million dollar home. The guy made 300 to 500 dollars a day for only 3 to 4 hours of work.

In Defense of Citizenry said...

Wow...that's just, well that's just wrong, wrong, wrong. People like that just need to go away.

Pavel said...

Black Ice, huh? What do you mean?

mamawarbird said...

On Good Friday(2008) my son took his own life. Not expecting it,I didn't have the money for a funeral! So,a few of my family members did a carwash here in SoCal, AND then I was told that a
lot of my sons friends, in Sacramento (where he had just moved from)wanted to help,so they started their own carwashes, t-shirt sales, anything you could think of to raise money.They had news-crews, radio announcements, etc.on their team.In fact, their 'fund raiser'was 5 times bigger than ours.Anyway, my family managed to raise about 1,000 dollars,for 1 Saturday, and 1/2 day Sunday. On Saturday, I was getting calls all day, from the kids' friends telling me they already are up to $3,ooo..and still going strong. I thought to myself that's really a cool thing they are doing....UNTIL the following weekend came. I was gonna bring my son's ashes that I had cremated, to my brothers house for a little memorial, so that all his friends from Sacramento could say goodbye.Some of the kids were late, because they had been at the "CARWASH". They were still, having fund-raisers???
I forgot to tell you the funny part.....THEY didn't give ANY money.(They did show up with bottles of 'Grey Goose, Patron, etc...)Well, I guess one girl had designated 'herself' to be the treasurer, told my brother,Oh, that money's gone...but I left $5 in the account in case anyone wants to donate"!! Then she proceeded to tell him to leave her alone, or she would get a restraining order!!! OMG!
By this time, I was already back in SoCal, so there was nothing I could do. ANYWAY,bottom line is, that they kept having carwashes in my sons name, for at least 3 weeks, I found out! The cops told my brother that there was nothing they could do, because "We let her control the money"....Some of his friends, didn't even know, what happened.They came, and worked in good faith, thinking they were helping. They got scammed too.
Moral of the story?
If a loved one dies and you need help, Stay far away from College Greens, in Sacramento! Thanks for letting me share!

P. said...

Being from New York, hotbed of panhandling, I am extremely cynical of beggars and don't contribute, unless they have a pet. If they have a pet, then I buy pet food and water and those disposable containers for use as pet dishes, plus maybe a sandwich and water for the human.

That being said, let me relate a story. Back in the early 90s, when I was living on Long Island, a friend and I had tickets to two different operas at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, two Saturdays in a row.

For those of you unfamiliar with the NY metro transit system, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has east/west routes, to and from Long Island in the east to NYC in the west.

Once in NYC, you use subways to go to all parts of the city.

Okay, the first Saturday night, we got out of the opera, I guess around 10:30pm or so, and got on an LIRR train to go back out onto the island. As we sat and waited for the train to leave, a thin woman, probably in her 30s, burst into our car. In a very plaintive voice, she said that she'd been in a fight, her pocketbook had been stolen, and she needed a few dollars for fare back to Long Island. There was something about her, perhaps the disheveled hair and the disheveled but clean (i.e., not vagrant) clothes in addition to her voice that made her seem very genuine. A few people on the train gave her some money, and after some delay, my friend gave her a dollar. The cynic in me said no.

Well, all throughout the following week, I could not stop thinking about this woman and damning myself for not helping probably the only legitimate panhandler out there. I thought about what a cynical "beech" I'd become.

Flash forward to the following Saturday night. This time, my friend and I were on our way to the opera. It was probably around 7pm when we got on a subway on the west side of the city to head up to Lincoln Center where the Met is. Our subway car was nearly empty. All of a sudden, guess who burst in with the same voice, the same look, the same story? Yep. My friend turned and looked at me, her blue eyes as large as saucers. I asked her if she wanted me to confront this woman (I'm a woman, and I wanted to smack the crap out of her), but she said no. To this date, I wish I had said something. But I was vindicated of my guilt, and happily continue to be a cynical "beech."

alanmoore78 said...

I tried a lot of ways to make money when I was homeless and living in a minivan in Dallas in 2004. I hauled a lot of scrap metal and aluminum cans. That actually paid quite well when I was able to find enough stuff to bring in. Waiting in the line outside the recycler was a pain, though, especially when I was low on gas. I could clear $35-$40 a day which was enough for food, a shower at a truck stop, cigarettes, and allowed me to save for days when I couldn't find any scrap.

I spent one morning trying out the dirty clothes, unshaven face, and a cardboard sign thing. I made $28 in two hours and was able to get a half tank of gas, a shower, and two good meals that day, but hauling metal was WAY better.

I can't possibly imagine asking for money from people under the false pretense that a child was killed and I couldn't afford a funeral. That's just wrong. I hope you or someone else catches them and puts them away for a long time, using the money they stole to pay for ACTUAL indigent funeral services.

Wraith said...

@ Pavel: I mean there's bound to be some bloggers or news agencies around who'd be happy to spread this story very far and wide...which might generate enough press to encourage a full investigation of these folks for fraud, tax evasion and all kinds of things.

It's known as an 'example.' Maybe once a couple of scam artists end up in orange jumpsuits on the 6:00 news, this kind of thing will become a bit less common. Or there might be a run on tar and feathers in the area...

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

I'm cold hearted to panhandlers now! They are on EVERY major street corner in our city and yes, they have the funeral and 'child needs surgery' sign. Our city doesn't let us do anything about them. And they drive nicer cars then my Officer and I do! It's nuts!
-Dispatcher

The Grumpy Dispatcher said...

I've bought food for them, and seen it tossed in the trash unopened.

I see them smoking cigarettes.

I see them talking on cell phones.

I see them changing shifts, one guy gets out of the wheelchair and/or hands over the crutches.

I see them drive away in decent cars.

I see the stories change. Funeral expenses, out of work vet, family sickness, by the same characters.

I do give out the occasional buck to the guy with the "parents kidnapped by ninjas, need money for kung fu lessons", though, as well as they guy who just wants a beer and says so. I can relate to that.

But the heart-stringers with these signs, pets, disability props, etc, only harden my heart.

I give a lot of $$$ to vetted charities, and have no guilt about driving past the fakers on the corners.

Forensic Artist said...

Sort of the same reson I don't give to panhandlers...two fugitives I did age progressed images for turned out to be the "homelss" guy under the bridge!

Annie said...

I'm pretty sure anything with the title of "panhandler" isn't going to be approved by me to give my hard earned money too. And just the pitiful lengths that these people go to to get that money is just ridiculous. Anyone that has to stand out on the street to get money is extremely lazy, they should be doing whatever they could to get a job or something. Anything but standing and stealing money from other people AND lying for what cause it is actually going to! But, anyways, I hope that justice was done and I hope it started a trend for awareness for people like these. Ones that will cheat you of your money...

Shalom said...

This reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes story. Anyone remember "The Man with the Twisted Lip"?

(It's in the public domain, so you can find it online. It's relevant to the discussion.)