Three arrested in alleged scam

September 17, 2005|By: Mark R. Madler

Burbank Police arrested three people Thursday for allegedly

impersonating members of the American Red Cross soliciting for

donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Federal charges were also expected to be filed Monday against Tino

Lee, of Burbank, and Liz Nicholas, of Glendale.

Lee, Nicholas and a 14-year-old Pico Rivera girl were picked up at

about 8 p.m. outside the Best Buy at the Empire Center, Burbank


Police said.

"They were falsely representing themselves as with the American

Red Cross to solicit donations," Burbank Police spokesman Sgt. Jay

Jette said.

Police recovered just less than $500 from the three when they were

taken into custody, Jette said, adding that the trio may have been at

the Empire Center four or five days prior to their arrests.

An officer with the department's retail crime detail was

suspicious of how the three were conducting themselves, which made

her think they were not with the Red Cross, Jette said.

Lee, 44, and Nicholas, 22, were each being held in lieu of

$100,000 bail in the Burbank city jail on suspicion of false

representation in soliciting charitable donations, Jette said.

The teen was released to the custody of her parents and will be

petitioned to juvenile court, Jette said.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles was anticipating filing

charges on Monday against Lee and Nicholas Friday for impersonating

Red Cross officials, office spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

An incident of this sort compounds the tragedy of the hurricane

and its destructive aftermath on New Orleans and other cities, said

H.T. Linke, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Greater Los


"You have people in need and good people giving generously and we

don't want them to think their money went to a fraudulent use," Linke


It was only the second incident he was aware of in which police

arrested someone posing as a Red Cross worker to solicit donations,

Linke said.

Legitimate American Red Cross workers generally will not solicit

for donations on street corners or in front of businesses and will

offer a receipt to people who donate, Linke said.

At this time, the Los Angeles Red Cross and the national Red Cross

are not seeking hurricane relief donations by phone, Linke said.

"If anyone gets a phone solicitation, there's a good chance it's

bogus," Linke said.

Anyone who believes they may have contributed money to the fake

solicitors can contact Det. Matt Ferguson at (818) 238-3277.

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