ANDY'S CONSUMER PAY-OFF: THE THREE "P's" TO WARD OFF FRAUDULENT SOLICITORS
* PERMIT? - Ask if they have a city or county permit to solicit -- and ask 'em to show it!
* PERMISSION? - Ask if they have permission to solicit on private property, then check with the property owner or retailer.
* PROOF? - Ask 'em to prove they represent whom they claim to represent. ID? Phone number for corroborating contact? Copy of soliciting permit?
(WMC TV) - The cops finally cuffed "The Candy Man."
At least, they cuffed one of his cohorts.
18-year-old Christopher Green, 632 Mississippi Blvd., pleaded guilty to charges of pedestrian soliciting rides or business, criminal impersonation and criminal trespass.
According to the arrest affidavit, Green and an untold number of juveniles were "soliciting customers and asking them for money" Nov. 19 on Wolfcreek Parkway between Target and Walgreens, across Germantown Parkway from Wolfchase Galleria.
Each was carrying a folder marked with the "Memphis Magic Elite" basketball team, "...which they are not a member of and does not exist," according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says Green and the children said they were collecting money to celebrate a friend's birthday because they didn't have jobs.
Green's arrest comes four weeks after Action News 5's initial investigation of club and school impostors caught soliciting shoppers in area parking lots.
Our investigation started with several complaints about men and boys hitting up shoppers and retailers in the parking lot of Sanderlin Centre in East Memphis.
They claim they're affiliated with the White Station High School football team. Their sales pitch varies.
Sometimes, they say they're selling candy (M&M's - $10 a pouch) to raise money for the booster club.
Sometimes, they say they're selling candy to raise money for a team trip to Missouri -- and the player with the highest total gets a free 52-inch flat screen TV.
"I just hate seeing people get ripped off," said Jeff Jenkins, an East Memphis resident. He sees these 'candy men' so often, he started carrying a camera.
When he came across one of the solicitors who made the White Station sales pitch, he put the solicitor on the spot. He asked a question that would elicit a simple answer from a real White Station student.
(Jenkins) Who's the principal there?
(Solicitor) Mr. Smith.
"Actually, it's David Mansfield," said White Station High School Principal David Mansfield.
He's seen our video. He's witnessed the solicitors. He's never surprised.
"It's happened year after year," he said. "It's not actually our students (or parents). We've never solicited in front of store buildings or anything else, and we never will."
But the 'candy men' keep showing up, and consumers keep buying the candy.
In come cases, the customers are buying -- under duress.
"I've seen them use acts of intimidation," said Jenkins. "Following people right up to their cars. They don't take 'No' for an answer."
"It's been quite a nuisance," said Nicci Bucherie-Kearl, an employee of a bake shop in Sanderlin Centre. "It was almost a daily basis.
"I actually quit them to leave myself when they went as far to get very verbally abusive."
53 of our Facebook fans pinged my fan page about their confrontations with the 'candy men.' They said they've been hit up in a half-dozen locations -- from Bartlett's Post Office to Shelby Dr. and Millbranch in Whitehaven.
"Stared me down," wrote one Facebook fan.
"Called me a b#$%h," wrote another when he said he told the guy to get lost.
"Scared my 8 yr old," he added.
One actually came right up to our Action News 5 undercover vehicle. We didn't even have to come to him.
He sprinted off when he realized whom he was harassing.
But even though they are harassing, trespassing and soliciting without a city or county permit, Lt. Dennis Toll of the Memphis Police Department's Economic Crimes Bureau said they may not be violating the law.
"It's unethical. It's immoral, but as far as committing fraud under state statute, it would require a much further investigation," Toll said.
"You know, fraud is fraud," said Jenkins. "When you misrepresent yourself and what you're doing, I think that's fraud.
"Once people stop giving these guys money, it will stop."
Green was sentenced to time served: his weekend in jail.
The two days he became the poster child for illegal solicitors -- and the "candy men."