Crooks were soliciting money from store owners
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
They picked the wrong people to scam.
That’s what police are saying after they arrested three suspects, two men and a woman, on Feb. 27 for allegedly trying to scam Bay Ridge store owners out of money by giving the merchants a sob story about a local resident who lost a family member and needed cash for the funeral.
The crooks identified themselves as working on behalf of Community Board 10, according to police at the 68th Precinct.
Except there was a big hole in their sob story solicitation: Community Board 10 does not solicit money from the public. “We do not authorize anyone to raise funds for us. We do not seek funds from the public. We are a city agency,” Josephine Beckmann, the board’s district manager, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“The fictitious story they were telling was that they were collecting donations for the family of a community member who was killed in an automobile accident,” said Dep. Insp. Richard DiBlasio, the precinct commander.
Two store owners on Third Avenue who had been approached by the scammers called Community Board 10 to try to verify the information.
The business owners were told by Dorothy Garuccio, the board’s community coordinator, that the board had not sent anyone out to collect donations. Garuccio also urged the store owners to contact the precinct and report the incident.
Bob Howe, president of the Merchants of Third Avenue, an organization representing store owners on the avenue, was also contacted by Garuccio about the scam. Howe immediately sent the memo to all of his members to alert them to the scam.
DiBlasio said that with the information police had, Lt. Thomas Gulotta and officers from the precinct were able to observe the suspects in action. The cops moved in to make a quick arrest.
“The quick reporting of this crime by the merchants and by Community Board 10 to the 68th Precinct enabled us to arrest these individuals while they were still in the commission of this scam,” Howe told the Eagle. “With lightning speed, this scam was diffused!”
Beckmann credited the close ties between Bay Ridge officials and the business community with helping to solve the crime. “We have a close relationship with our merchants. We’re glad that they feel comfortable to come to us with information. When they heard that Community Board 10 was looking for funds, it was odd to them, so they contacted us,” she said.
“We were very glad to hear of the arrest,” Beckmann added.