[Hpn] Scammers Working Katrina Evacuee Angle

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 13 Oct 2005 19:47:02 -0400

The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
Thursday, October 13, 2005 (SF Chronicle)

South Bay residents accused of posing as Katrina victims

Suzanne Herel, Chronicle Staff Writer

   (10-13) 15:05 PDT PALO ALTO -- Three Peninsula residents posed as 
from Hurricane Katrina to solicit money and shelter from the Palo Alto
area chapter of the Red Cross, police say, and authorities are
investigating several other similar reports of people trying to scam the
humanitarian agency.
   Jamaine Dontae Barnes, 23, of East Palo Alto, and his identical twin,
Jamar Deontae Barnes, received free hotel rooms for a month at the
Homestead Studio Suites in Sunnyvale and checks for $965 and $1,265,
respectively, after visiting the Red Cross office on Mitchell Avenue last
month, Palo Alto police spokesman Dan Ryan said.
   Jamaine Barnes came in Sept. 16, Ryan said. Red Cross workers became
suspicious after another man looking exactly like him walked in four days
later; police believe it may have been his twin.
   Jamaine Barnes was later arrested and charged with burglary and grand
theft. He was on probation at the time and was enrolled in Project 90, a
drug diversion program in San Mateo, Ryan said.
   A warrant has been issued for Jamar Barnes, who lives in San Jose.
   Also arrested was Beverly Joyce Jackson, 39, of East Palo Alto, who
visited the Palo Alto office Sept. 22 asking for money and shelter for
herself, son and daughter. She presented two Social Security numbers, but
neither belonged to her family, Ryan said.
   Jackson was arrested when she returned the following day with another
Social Security number and Red Cross workers called police, Ryan said.
   Jackson has pleaded guilty to burglary and attempted grand theft and is
scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 3.
   At first, Red Cross officials didn't want to subject people who said they
had lost their wallets and documents to a lot of questions, Ryan said.
Now, however, they are checking all information with the Louisiana
Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration.
   "Three weeks ago we felt a change in the tide," said Patricia Bubenik,
executive director of the Palo Alto Area Chapter of the American Red
Cross. "We just felt something was different."
   Instead of erring on the side of the client, she said, case workers began
asking for concrete evidence that the people coming in actually had been
displaced by the hurricane.
   "I think there's kind of a grieving process," Bubenik said. "They could 
longer rely on face value, and that hurt."
   Bubenik said her agency has helped more than 80 evacuees of Hurricane
   Ryan said police are investigating six or seven similar cases of people
fraudulently posing as hurricane evacuees. "Apparently this scam has made
the rounds in the crook community," Ryan said.

   E-mail Suzanne Herel at sherel@sfchronicle.com.