Scam artists claim to be fundraising for Le Bonheur

By Chip Washington - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A scam artist claiming to be fundraising for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital has been caught in the act by a clerk.

In celebration of their new facility, Le Bonheur hosted a "Hospital Gown Gala" for parents Saturday night.  Friday afternoon, men posing as hospital representatives went to several East Memphis business pitching a fundraiser to collect money for the hospital.

Leslie Robinson, owner of Celery, an upscale boutique, was approached by the scammers.

"What I heard, she came back to me in the office and said, 'there's a gentleman here collecting donations for Le Bonheur,'" Robinson said.  "I said we don't take walk-in solicitors."

One of the scammers was captured on surveillance cameras making his pitch while speaking to the sales clerk.  From a folder, he pulled out something with the hospital logo on it while asking for donations for a fictitious 5K race.

Robinson said the man did not leave empty handed.

"She gave her own money," Robinson said.  "She gave five dollars.  In fact, she asked him for change, and you can see he pulls out a pocket full of cash."

The scammer may not have acted along, as Action News 5 learned an accomplice pulled the same scam at the Andrew Michael Italian Restaurant just around the corner.

"He had a binder, pulled out a little flyer and asked if I wanted to give money for a 5K that's going on apparently today," said manager Nick Talarico.

According to managers, the suspects were in and out relatively quickly.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital President and CEO Meri Armour said the hospital never solicits door-to-door.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.