See why police detectives say that stealing a few bucks, under false pretences, really is more than a petty crime. Perhaps YOU can help …
Portland Police Bureau Southeast Precinct Detective Dan Andrew shows a “donation sheet” signed by victims of the suspect’s door-to-door solicitation fraud.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One might think that door-to-door solicitors asking for donations for non-existent causes constitute a pretty inconsequential scam. But, a Portland Police Bureau detective, building a case against one of these scam artists, said there is more to such a criminal enterprise than simply cheating citizens out of a few dollars on a false pretext.
Just after noon on December 28th, Eastmoreland neighbors called police when they suspected that band of door-to-door solicitors were fakes.
“Neighbors on SE Glenwood Street [in Eastmoreland] said three suspicious subjects were going door-to- door attempting to collect money for the Grant High School basketball program,” reported police spokesperson Officer Catherine Kent.
“They told officers that the suspects could not answer questions about the program, and appeared older than high school age,” continued Kent. “Officers arrived in the area and located a suspect in the area of SE 32nd Avenue and SE Tolman Street who matched the description they were given.”
Suspect is known to detectives
Although his accomplices were not located or identified, officers arrested 19-year-old Antone Marquece Foster, and charged him with Theft by Deception after he was identified by the victims, according to Kent.
“This isn’t his first time,” Portland Police Bureau Southeast Precinct Detective Dan Andrew told us. “Foster was arrested and charged for Theft in March, 2008, when he was canvassing neighborhoods in NE Portland, soliciting money for an AAU basketball tournament. He was arrested again in September of 2007 for soliciting funds in North Portland for the Jefferson High School basketball program. He wasn’t affiliated with any of these schools.”
Pot in his pocket
When he was arrested this time, Andrew said, Foster had $89 in his possession. “He also had three baggies of marijuana. So, if people believe that they were giving him money for a good cause, perhaps this money was simply used to supply himself and his crew with marijuana. We don’t think this is a good cause.”
The detective said fake solicitors tend to deter people from donating to legitimate charities. “They are selfish people who are denying other people the ability to receive charitable donations because neighbors have given to them, and because of their bad experience, may not then give to legitimate organizations.”
Prelude to other crimes
While not accusing Foster of other crimes, Detective Andrew said that this individual, on other occasions, printed fake “donation sheets” on which he collected information from unsuspecting neighbors – including personal information. “This could be used for identity fraud.”
Further, as with other scamming solicitors, these visits might have been a prelude to burglary. “It’s an easy way – a semi-legitimate-appearing way – for a criminal to case a house,” noted Andrew. “If no one is home, the residence might become a burglary target. Or, during warm weather, they may come in the screen door and grab a laptop computer or purse. They are specifically looking for ‘crimes of opportunity’.”
Help stop fake solicitors
Andrew advises not to give money to door-to-door solicitors. “Really think about someone who is at your door asking for a donation. If you give to a fraudulent solicitor, in a sense you’re helping to enable and perpetuate their criminal activity. It’s easy to check out legitimate charities using the Internet.”
If your area has an active Neighborhood Watch program, Andrew added, let your neighbors know you think a scam artist is working your street. “Get the best description you can of the person. Come out and see if there is a vehicle associated with the solicitors – and get the license plate. Don’t be afraid to walk out to the end of your walkway to see where he is going. If they see you’re paying such close of attention, though, they’ll probably move on. Then, call and report it to our non-emergency number, (503) 823-3333.”
Police say they suspect that this man, Antone Marquece Foster, keeps fleecing unwitting neighbors, and officers need the help of victims to make the theft charges stick. Foster was arrested in Eastmoreland, after neighbors suspected he was a fake and reported it.
Asks victims to come forward
Many victims give because they want to help the cause, reported Andrew. Others give because they are afraid of “brick through the window” retaliation. Nevertheless, the frauds add up to good money. A scam artist can take in $150 within an hour or two.
Andrew said that scam artists get more confident over time. Because scammers collected only a dollar here, or five dollars there, they figure they won’t get prosecuted, because people who’ve been cheated will not follow through with the charges.
“Right now, we’re ‘up to here’ with this kind of behavior,” affirmed Andrew. “We want to see that these people are prosecuted, but we need victims to come forward – even if they were only taken for a couple of dollars.”
If believe you’ve been a victim, call Detective Dan Andrew at (503) 823-5031.
© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News