Update: Scam Targets The Homeless

By: Gary Smollen, The Associated Press Email
By: Gary Smollen, The Associated Press Email

Con men are targeting the homeless in the latest scam burning its way through the Heartland. In the end, the victims usually end up in jail and the thief is long gone.

The con men are preying upon the homeless men’s needs. The latest example comes from Lincoln. The thief approached three men and said if they cashed a check they could keep part of it and rent a hotel room. The homeless men may have smelled a rat, but any opportunity to get out of the cold may have sounded too good to pass up.

Lincoln police say 54-year-old Paul Bellew is the latest homeless man to pay the price for cashing a fake check. Investigators say they know the names of the other two men who accompanied Bellew, but they have not been located.

News of the scam quickly made its way through Omaha's Siena/Francis House. "I think that's a shame because the person is already down and out, they're hard up and for somebody to go around and take advantage of somebody who is already down and out is not right," said John Gallagher.

The staff at Siena/Francis House is making sure everyone knows about the check scam so they don't fall for it and end up in jail.

Authorities say banks in places like Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri are already out thousands of dollars. All of the cases involve homeless individuals allegedly working for someone else.

"It's just another vulnerable population, there are vulnerable out there, the elderly, youth and homeless people," Mike Saklar of Siena/Francis House. "They are easy targets sometimes."

Lincoln police believe Bellew and the other homeless men took two banks for a little more than $21,000. Bellew said he was given $450 and now faces a felony fraud charge.

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