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Panhandling scam uses phony baby funeral

September 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Panhandlers are on the prowl in the Inland Empire, using a tragic tale to con Good Samaritans. The scam begins with a heartbreaking story.A woman says her baby died, and she needs money for the burial. But in reality there is no baby, just a con artist hoping to get your cash.

Carolyne Mathis, 19, from Perris, was arrested by Rancho Cucamonga Police. They say she was using a poster to solicit funeral donations for "Michael James Mathis," who apparently passed away at just over 4 months old. Police say that is a lie.

"Her story was a complete scam," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Spokeswoman Jodi Miller. "She did not have a child, she did not have a deceased child, and she was subsequently arrested for panhandling."

If you're wondering about the picture of the baby, it was apparently picked up from Google images.

Police say Mathis was cited and released, but she might be back at it again.

And it might go even further than that.

Apparently there's a man who is possibly orchestrating this scheme with a number of women in several cities all across the area.

"Apparently what happens is he drops off up to quite possibly five different females with these posters stating that they have deceased children, that they need help with the funeral arrangements, and they're requesting donations. Well, unfortunately people see this and people feel bad for her, and it's my understanding that they're making hundreds of dollars a day with this fake scam," said Miller.

While some panhandlers may be seriously desperate, this scam illustrates that not everyone can be trusted.

The sheriff's department is reminding the public that panhandling is a misdemeanor crime.

Since there was fraud involved, Mathis could be charged with consipiracy to commit a crime, a felony.


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