AIRPORT COURTHOUSE ‚Äî Three men who were arrested late last year in an undercover police sting on the Third Street Promenade were convicted Tuesday on criminal charges for their roles in a charitable solicitation scam, city officials said.
Each of the men ‚Äî¬† Rodney Muhammad, 56, of Compton, Derek Haskins, 53, of Los Angeles and Jerry White, 53, of Santa Monica ‚Äî plead no contest to three misdemeanor violations.
White and Muhammad were convicted of identity theft, false advertising, and aggressive solicitation. Hoskins was convicted of theft by false pretenses, false advertising, and identity theft, all misdemeanors, said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.
The court placed all three defendants under probation for three years. During that time they will be prohibited from coming within 100 feet of the Downtown business district; they are barred from soliciting contributions of any kind, anywhere in the state; they are required to perform 240 hours of hard labor community service within one year; and they must perform 56 hours of work at Ocean Park Community Center, a local homeless shelter, within one year.
The men were arrested in November during a sting operation by the Santa Monica Police Department.
The sting was organized after the City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit discovered that the charities which the men claimed to be collecting cash for denied any connection to the men. The investigation by Consumer Affairs specialist Paula Rockenstein included posing as a tourist on the promenade and visiting the headquarters of the alleged charity undercover, Rhoades said.
City officials also discovered that the charity IDs and other credentials being used by the men were phony.
Among the charities whose names were used by the men, were AIDS Health Foundation and Another Chance Ministry.
“The sentence fits the crime in this case,” Rhoades said. “The three men who impersonated charity workers for personal gain must now give back to the community by doing long hours of hard labor and community service.”
Rhoades urged caution to all when donating to charities.
“A little bit of research on the phone and the Internet can help assure that your donations are going to a worthy and legitimate cause,” he said.