“Charity” Stopped from Scamming OTR Residents

by Susan Lakes

11:22 a.m. Homeless coalition director receives a call letting him know that some men are offering homeless people money in exchange for personal information, including their social security number.

11:24 a.m. Director calls police and walks to Our Daily Bread to check it out, Streetvibes photographer tagging along. They’re told the men left in a gray car with Michigan tags.

12:11 a.m. Tip comes in that the possible scammers are in a alley at Over-the-Rhine Kitchen, so director walks there, sees the men and gray car, and calls police.

12:13 p.m. Police arrive on bicycles, in cars and on motorcycles and begin questioning four men in connection with a possible identity theft case that will be turned over to the fraud unit of the Cincinnati Police Department.

Tuesday morning, scam suspects were buying identities from vulnerable people. An hour later, the four suspects were answering questions and watching their rental car get towed down an alley.

Speedy team work by a social service worker, police, some observant individuals and the execu¬tive director of the homeless coalition resulted in the beginning of a fraud investigation into a bogus charity and the men who were caught offering vulnerable people a small fee in exchange for personal information, including their social security numbers.

Police questioned four men, two with local addresses and two with Michigan identifications, in an alley near Over-The-Rhine Kitchen within an hour of getting a report of suspicious activity going on with the men and their questionable charity, Heavenly Hope, of 150 West 5th Street.

The men were seen lingering Tuesday morning outside Our Daily Bread and talking with some of the homeless people who hang out there for meals and activities. They offered bottled water, fruit and $5.00 donations to anyone willing to turn over their name, age, address and social security number to the supposed charity.