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Scammer gets probation time

Woman collecting charity under false pretenses is sentenced to a halfway house.

August 02, 2006|By Vince Lovato and Ryan Carter

GLENDALE ? A 22-year-old Glendale woman was sentenced to six months in a halfway house and community service Monday for posing as an American Red Cross volunteer and pocketing money under the guise of helping Hurricane Katrina victims, wire reports said.

U.S. District Court Judge George King sentenced Gina Liz Nicholas to a term in the halfway house, after which she will remain on probation for 30 months, pay a $1,000 fine and get psychological therapy, reports said.

She will perform 20 hours of community service every week, the judge ordered.

Burbank Police arrested Nicholas and her accomplice, Tino Lee, 44, of Burbank, on Sept. 15 at the Burbank Best Buy.

The couple had $116 in cash and a $200 check when they were arrested.

A 14-year-old girl was also arrested at the scene. z

The Los Angeles Superior Court is handling her case.

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Although he reportedly doubted Nicholas masterminded the scam, King believed Nicholas made Red Cross arm bands and claimed the pair took advantage of strangers who were acting out of the kindness of their hearts, reports said.

King sentenced Lee to 366 days in a federal prison in February on similar charges.

If Nicholas violates the terms of the sentence, she will reportedly go to a federal prison.

Nicholas and Lee were out on bail pending sentencing after both pleaded guilty to the charges in November. Such a scam was not a big surprise to police.

"Any time there is a major disaster, earthquake, hurricane, major flood or fire, we've got some very unscrupulous people in society that will seize the opportunity to work on the public's sympathy to encourage them to donate," Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

"Unfortunately, some of these people are doing this looking out for their personal interests and taking the money for themselves."

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