Santa Monica Lookout
Three Convicted in Santa Monica Charity Scam
By Jason Islas
January 10, 2013 -- Three men were convicted Tuesday in County Superior Court of running a charity scam on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.
Rodney Muhammad, Derek Haskins and Jerry White were arrested in November when an undercover police sting revealed they were collecting money for charities they fraudulently claimed to represent.
“We charged that they were approaching people on the Promenade, tourists and shoppers, and telling those folks that they represented nonprofit organizations,” said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.
The men would seek donations from tourists, claiming they represented Another Chance Ministry, a nonprofit that helps feed children, and the AIDS Health Foundation, among other organizations.
The breakthrough in the investigation came, Rhoades said, after the organizations denied any connection with the men.
“Our police department did a great job with their undercover sting operation,” he said.
“The investigation by Consumer Affairs Specialist Paula Rockenstein included posing as a tourist on the Promenade and visiting the headquarters of the alleged charity undercover,” City officials said.
The IDs and other paperwork the men carried also proved to be phony.
“White and Muhammad were convicted of identity theft, false advertising, and aggressive solicitation,” City officials said. “Hoskins was convicted of theft by false pretenses, false advertising, and identity theft, all misdemeanors.”
All three men, who are in their early to mid 50s, were sentenced to three years of probation, during which time they will be prevented from coming within 100 feet of the Santa Monica Downtown Business District. They will also not be allowed to solicit contributions of any kind in California.
They must also donate 56 hours of work at OPCC, a local nonprofit that provides services for homeless people, including a shelter near Downtown Santa Monica.
Rhoades thought it was fitting that the men had been convicted of trying to take from the community and now they will be required to give back to the community.
They must also perform 240 hours of “hard labor community service” within a year.
Rhoades said the holidays are a time when people are most susceptible to scams like this one.
“I think we're all bombarded by pitches during the holidays or right after a tragedy, whether it's on the Internet or T.V. or radio,” he said. People are getting “requests from all sorts of organizations.
“What we see, especially in the Consumer Protection Unit, is a troubling number of those that are not legitimate,” he said. “A little bit of research on the phone and the Internet can help assure that your donations are going to a worthy and legitimate cause.”
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2012 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.|