A scam artist is looking for a free lunch on the cash flow of Mid-South restaurants.
Mike Miller, manager of Patrick's Steaks & Spirits, 4972 Park Ave. in East Memphis and president of the Memphis Restaurant Association (http://www.memphisrestaurants.com/), says a man using different names but the same cell number - 901-644-9572 -- has called at least three of the association's restaurants.
Miller says the caller claims he's collecting cash donations for the Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police "Shop With A Cop" children's fundraiser. The caller has used the name 'Arthur Lappin,' as well as Miller's name, when contacting the restaurants.
Don Hollie, secretary of the Shelby County Metro FOP Lodge #35 (http://www.shelbycountymetrofoplodge35.com/) says there is no 'Arthur Lappin' on the FOP's board, staff or telemarketer's list. Hollie also says the FOP only accepts checks and money orders, not cash.
"Anytime someone calls up and solicits cash, probably there's something wrong there," says Miller.
The caller also contacted John Adams, an account executive with The Memphis Flyer. Adams says the caller requested a list of restaurants and their contacts, preferably restaurants that just recently opened, so he could solicit them for the FOP fundraiser.
"When I asked for a cover letter, a press release, anything that could substantiate his claim, he backed off and hung up the phone," says Adams.
The Action News 5 Investigators tracked the name 'Arthur Lappin' to an East Ridge, TN, address near Chattanooga, but no phone number. We determined the cell number is a Cricket account, but we could not obtain the name or address of the account holder.
We set up a sting at Patrick's when the caller agreed to meet Miller at the restaurant to discuss the possibility of a cash donation.
He didn't show.
Miller called him to find out why he skipped the meeting and to question his connection to the FOP. He said he travels all the time and typically sends a representative to pick up the donations.
"I mean, it's all legitimate. I just don't happen to be there, you know what I mean?" he told Miller on the phone.
Hollie insists the caller has no connection to the Shelby County Metro FOP.
Be aware of the tell-tale signs of a police charity scam:
* IF IT ACCEPTS CASH ONLY, IT'S A SCAM. Legitimate police charities will accept checks and money orders, but not necessarily credit cards.
* IF IT USES AN OFFICER'S DEATH TO SOLICIT FUNDS, IT'S A SCAM. The family of an officer killed in the line of duty will get a death benefit from the government, not phone donations.
* IF IT CLAIMS TO BE COLLECTING FOR BULLET-PROOF VESTS, WEAPONS OR EQUIPMENT, IT'S A SCAM. Our tax dollars pay for those items.