By Mary O’KEEFE
Local law enforcement is alerting the public to a possible scam artist in the area. Lt. Larry Landreth of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said that the station has received calls about a man who is approaching shoppers for money.
“This man walks up to people in the parking lot and says he has run out of gas and doesn’t have his wallet with him,” reported a local resident who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The resident said he was approached by a well dressed Asian man about 45 to 50 years old with thinning hair and wearing glasses.
“He said he worked in Orange County and had run out of gas. He had left his wallet at his office and asked for help. I gave him $3,” the resident said.
The encounter occurred in the Trader Joe’s parking lot in La Cañada mid-day. The man told him he was an architect and had a very convincing story.
The resident didn’t think anything about the meeting until a few days later when he saw the same man approaching the another customer at Vons in La Cañada.
“I saw the customer give the man $20. I went up to him and he seemed a little nervous when he
saw me,” the resident said.
The man told him he would be leaving the area, got into a silver Chevy Suburban with another
man in the passenger seat and drove away. The resident followed the vehicle to a local restaurant.
“We [in the Crescenta Valley community] want to help others. If someone says they need help we believe them,” he said. The resident said he has seen this man at Ralphs Market in La Cañada, too.
A similar situation occurred about a year ago at Vons Market in La Crescenta. According to law enforcement, these types of individuals will move from location to location using a variety of stories.
“These individuals are looking for the easy way out,” said Sgt. Tom Lorenz, Glendale Police Department.
Law enforcement are limited to what they can do to prevent this type of problem.
“We can’t arrest people for asking for help. It is all covered under freedom of speech,” Lorenz said. Landreth said there may be a way to stop this type of behavior through panhandling laws. Both Landreth and Lorenz said the store managers where these types of incidents occur must also play a part. “Grocery store managers monitor
their own parking lot,” Lorenz said. Landreth added that customers need to tell the store managers if they are
approached by someone asking for money. The managers can contact the sheriff or police when they see something suspicious.
“Give money to a charitable organization like your local churches, the Kiwanis, Salvation Army or American
Red Cross,” advised Lorenz. “There are many places for people to go if they need help. The only way an
individual is going to seek help from those organizations is if they are cut off.”