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Bogus Charity Workers Ran Scam on Third Street Promenade, Police Say

Three men who panhandled for organizations such as the AIDS Health Foundation and Another Chance Ministry are arraigned on numerous charges including identity theft and false advertising.

Three men who claimed they were raising money for charities while panhandling on the Third Street Promenade were allegedly unaffiliated with the organizations and are now facing criminal charges, local authorities said Thursday.

"It’s the season for opportunistic criminals but ‘tis not the season for them here in Santa Monica," said Deputy City Attorney Gary W. Rhoades.

For "a long time," the men were soliciting cash donations for organizations such as the AIDS Health Foundation and Another Chance Ministry, according to a Santa Monica Police Department spokesman.

Compton resident Rodney Muhammad, 56; Los Angeles resident Derek Haskins, 53; and Santa Monica resident Jerry White, also 53, were arraigned Wednesday on charges of theft by false pretenses, identity theft, false advertising, forgery of a government seal, and aggressive panhandling.

They were taken into custody Nov. 26 on the south end of the Promenade after "they were observed displaying false credentials," the police said.

Rhoades said investigators are still trying to determine the length of the alleged scam and how much money was taken.

"Consumers should take the time to research any charity before making a donation," he said in a press release. "Don’t make a donation on the street without first calling the organization and verifying that the solicitor is legitimate. You should also check online to make sure the organization itself is legit."

The authorities offered the following tips:

  1. Call the charity directly to make sure the solicitor is legitimate.
  2. Find out what percentage of donations actually go to the cause, as opposed to administration and paying the solicitors. (By law, charities are required to disclose this information.)
  3. When solicited for charity, learn about the organization, its activities and fundraising practices.
  4. Ask for written information.
  5. Watch out for copycat scams. Some questionable organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations.

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Eddie Greenberg November 30, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Thank Heaven they were busted! People should never get ripped off for any reason anywhere. But the Promenade of all places needs to be above reproach. Locals and tourists from across the world come here and expect to be dealt with fairly.This kind of crooked behavior affects businesses, shoppers and the entire community.
Glenn E Grab November 30, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Eddie, this is why I only give to the Salvation Army....my friend Dennis works for them and collects during the Christmas season on Third Street....90% of the money collected goes to help the down and out, unlike most "charities" that pay their directors and CEO's hundreds of thousands per year in salaries and benefits..and give less than 20% to those in need....
lahope November 30, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Why not just ban all soliciting on the Promenade? It is incredibly annoying to have someone who has no other interest in you than separating you from some money shout, *how are you today, ma'am?* and then, loudly, *have a nice day, ma'am* as you pass by without stopping. Then there are the beggars. Those of us who live in Santa Monica and visit the Promenade frequently recognize a cast of characters right out of Brecht's Threepenny Opera who have essentially established their de facto businesses at various locations on the Promenade.
Eddie Greenberg November 30, 2012 at 08:36 PM
You are right Iahope, many would support getting rid of the nuisances that you describe. The Third Street Promenade is one of the crown jewels of our city. Some way must be found to remove that part which might fit better on skid row downtown.People should feel safe to walk and shop without this kind of nonsense.
Eddie Greenberg November 30, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I agree Glenn that Salvation Army is an excellent choice! They really have helped people in their time of need that I personally know. I too would not want any money going to a fat salary for a ceo which defeats the purpose. Then people that qualify can register with Crysalis to seek employment in entry level jobs.
Dan Charney December 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I find the beggars, even the ones soliciting a few bucks dishonestly - quite preferable to a city council in bed with the developers that have brought us this misery - with 30 more projects in the hopper- zero regard for traffic etc- and interesting - none of it- not one above Montana Ave- so the looters and street people get a few bucks and a TV and some diapers- the developers get our entire town and ruin it - who is the real robber?
Dan Charney December 01, 2012 at 12:36 AM
The nuisances of this city are the politicians - and the nerds- the Silicon Beach nerds- give me the beggars over what is happening to this city
Brenda Barnes December 02, 2012 at 07:43 AM
I agree with Dan, and I can't imagine anyone saying the 3rd Street Promenade is the jewel of the City. Since I haven't been there more than once in three years, you can see what I think of having to park two blocks away and go to overpriced chain stores and restaurants. Why anyone would come from anywhere to see chain stores I cannot imagine. I agree with Dan--the real robbers are the developers who took away all the local businesses so they could make money, and their co-conspirators the City Council, who took their cut so most of the buildings are cheap and ugly. I'd take the Midnight Special Bookstore--if it hadn't been stolen by the high-rent gouger brigade--any day over yet another Barnes & Noble and yet another Starbucks and yet another AMC Theater. Lately I read they are taking (or already took) away the dolphin piggy bank sculpture that has raised $50,000 for homeless people, so they can make more room for outdoor dining--another chain, no doubt, like Johnny Rockets. So the real thieves care nothing for either the homeless or for any other people. They should have to panhandle instead of stealing our City.
Dan Charney December 02, 2012 at 08:30 AM
"Jewel" indeed- the Promenade to me is not even a Diamonique - fake luster- wont' hold a shine long - the council and developers are panhandlers- they are just doing it at a very high level- everyone works their area- the guy in the hood with crack and hookers and the WS traders with coke and call girls- and they are all Ivy League-that should make it right -
Glenn E Grab December 02, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I don't want beggars and con men bugging me for money when I'm out for a walk...the Salvation Army doesn't do that, they just have a guy in a Santa hat with a little bell....they'll probably get thrown out, just like the nativity scenes on Ocean blvd...
Glenn E Grab December 02, 2012 at 08:50 PM
don't they check these people out before letting them beg on third street?....the Salvation Army doesn't approach people, when do they let these other guys do it?...
Dan Charney December 02, 2012 at 11:34 PM
as Jimmy Breslin said when developers were destroying Time Square- " if it's a choice between Disney and the hookers- I'll take the hookers"- me too- rather the honest small guy than the council and people really robbing - behind gates so we cant' reach them- while they focus our attention on the little guy to kick so we think that is the problem- the problem is the council and the development with so much money pouring in and so little for things that really need it-

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