Men Using the Homeless for Money

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(Memphis) They say they are helping the homeless by giving them lots of money.

"You give them $100?" asked reporter Sabrina Hall.

"$300, $400," said the man.

But those who have taken a ride with them tell a different story.

"They come everyday and folks get in the car with them," said Anthony Sasfrass, who is homeless.

"I think what they're doing is wrong," said Daniel Money, a homeless man outside the Union Mission.

"They are taking advantage of people," said Sasfrass.

"We got fed up with it and I said 'look something needs to be done about it'," said Union Mission volunteer Daniel Dewitt.

Dewitt called us about the situation, one the shelter has been documenting: men picking up the homeless and taking them to buy cell phones.

"They asked me if I wanted to make $100," said Money.

"They pick you up and take you to Bartlett or Germantown," said Sasfrass.  "You got to go in there and get them a phone and then they`ll pay you."

The homeless say the men ask them if they have good credit and a valid ID and if the answer is "yes," they ask if they want to make some quick cash.

"I had to fill out two pieces of paper," said Sasfrass.  "They were long forms."

Here's how it works: The men take the homeless to cell phone stores, give them cash and tell them to sign up for a cell phone plan. That gets them an expensive phone at a discounted rate.

"I was approved for one phone for $100 down," said Michael Currie outside the Hospitality Hub.

They say the scammers then take the phone and re-sell it for $600 or more, leaving the homeless person without the phone and monthly bills they can't pay.

"They canceled mine," said Sasfrass.  "They sent me a letter in the mail saying my plan has been canceled because they didn`t pay the bill.  The bill wasn`t paid."

"So do you know what happened to your credit?" asked Hall.

"It`s messed up.  I can`t get nothing else on credit."

The scam is making it even tougher for these homeless to turn their lives around and they say the criminals aren't even living up to their end of the deal.

"He was supposed to give me $50 and he gave me $10," said Sasfrass.

"One person who went with him, the man didn`t give him nothing," said Money.

"They gave me 10 cigarettes and a 24 oz. can of Colt," said Currie.

We decided to have a word with these guys ourselves.  We found them parked in what people say is their normal spot: a parking lot off Danny Thomas Blvd. and Poplar Ave.

"What is this phone deal? What is this thing about?" asked Hall.

"We help people," said a man with braids.

"We don`t go out and buy phones, but thank you and have a nice day," said the man's partner in the driver's seat of the SUV.

The Ford Explorer has a temporary tag from out of state and the guys don't have their story straight.

"How does it work? You take them to go by a phone?" asked Hall.

"Yes.  We take them to go buy phones. They need some money. We are helping out the homeless," said the man with braids.  "They need some money and we give it to them."

"You keep the phone and then re-sell it?"

After a long pause, the man says, "Uh... I am through."

They didn't want to elaborate to us but they'll soon have to explain their alleged scam to the U.S. Secret Service.

News Channel 3 let them know it was going on.

The homeless are spreading the word that the promise of a few bucks is not worth a ride in their car.

"Was it worth the $10?" asked Hall.

"No. It wasn't worth that," said Sasfrass.