Beware of Charity Scam!

PALMDALE – Palmdale Sheriff’s deputies are warning residents to beware of ongoing charity scams in the mid-city area. The scams consist of suspects approaching citizens, either in business districts or by going door to door in neighborhoods, and asking for donations to aid in paying for funeral arrangements for a recently murdered child.

In the latest incident, a homeless man scammed residents in a Palmdale apartment complex by claiming he needed money to cremate his murdered son.

In reality, the man wanted the money to pay for a hotel room for the night, officials said.

Shawn Stokes, 43, was arrested at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 and booked on charges of Theft by False Pretenses.

The following is a press report from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station, which details the incident:

On December 31, Palmdale Deputies responded to a suspicious person call near the 600 Block of Knollview Ct., in which the caller stated the suspicious person was going door to door soliciting donations to cremate his son who had recently been murdered in the Lancaster area. When deputies arrived they detained Shawn Stokes who possessed a plastic bag full of small currency, a bible, and two photos of small children.

While speaking to deputies, Stokes admitted to going to several apartments within a complex and telling the residents he was their neighbor and his son had recently been murdered in a drive-by shooting in the Lancaster area. He further explained that due to hard times he did not have the money to cremate his son and was asking for help.

Stokes told deputies he was actually homeless and trying to “hustle up” enough money to get a hotel room for the night. Stokes was arrested earlier this month [December] for committing the same scam on innocent community members. Stokes was transported and booked on charges of “Theft by False Pretenses” at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station.

Deputies canvassed the neighborhood knocking on over 20 doors in an attempt to identify victims of this scam. One victim was identified and relayed to deputies that while they were doing everything they could to scrape by, they felt bad for Stokes and gave him what little cash they had at the time.

Palmdale Station wants to caution the public about donating to such schemes, as this particular scam is becoming more popular. Antelope Valley residents should research the charities in which they make donations to ensure their donations reach the proper recipients.

(Information via press release from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station.)