Lee and Nicholas were taken into federal custody on Monday morning
by FBI agents at the Burbank Police Department jail, where they had
been held since their arrest Thursday night at the Empire Center
A 14-year-old Pico Rivera girl taken into custody at the same time
was released to her parents.
Nearly $600 was recovered -- including a $200 check -- from the
donations Lee, Nicholas and the girl allegedly received outside a
Best Buy store, officials said.
Following a brief appearance in U.S. District Court, Nicholas was
released on a $10,000 bond and Lee on a $15,000 bond, Assistant U.S.
Atty. Ellyn Lindsay said.
The pair are scheduled to return to court on Oct. 11, Lindsay
American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles spokesman H.T. Linke
said the incident should not discourage people from donating, but if
they are concerned, he advised they give to an organization with a
proven track record.
"If people want to be sure they are giving to a legitimate group
they should stick with those they have known and trusted," Linke
When American Red Cross solicits for donations in front of a
business, it will be done in conjunction with another agency, such as
what was done with the Burbank Fire Department on Sept. 7 outside the
AMC Theaters, Linke said.
Katie Mitzner, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau of the
Southland, was not aware of any other Katrina-related scams in
"We know it's going on," Mitzner said. "It takes a while for us to
find out about them, because complaints come from people who have had
A Burbank Police officer spotted the trio, and the poor condition
of identification badges they wore and their lack of documentation
proving they were collecting for the Red Cross made the officer
A box containing change, $1 and $5 bills and the check also roused
suspicion, the affidavit said.
"It was old and torn, and had a flier for American Red
Cross/Katrina taped to the front," according to an affidavit filed by
FBI Special Agent Perry Woo. "The opening was torn and messy. The box
was a plain cardboard box wrapped in white paper."
From interviews with Best Buy employees and customers who had
given donations, police learned that Lee and Nicholas had been
soliciting in front of the store for several days, the affidavit