Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Money from Motorist
All of us have been approached by beggars on the streets. But how often have you wondered what they really intend to do with your money. Tonight, members of one community are raising questions about two young girls who have been soliciting motorists for months. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is - on the case.
(WSVN) -- It is not unusual to see people asking for money on the streets of South Florida. But it is unusual to see young girls begging seven days a week.
People who have seen them near Andrews Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard - contacted us concerned about the girl's welfare.
Sherry Phillips: "Up and down - up and down the road all day. Why are those girls out there? They're out there all the time."
Sherry Phillips works nearby. For months she and coworkers have worried about the girls who they say look young enough to be in school.
Sherry Phillips: "And then I feel their life is being taken away from them being so young either, or, if they're out of school young enough to do other things."
Lisa Graham says the girls "never" stop smiling.
Lisa Graham: "How could you be smiling walking up and down the streets in the 90 degree weather?"
Reggie Graham: "They're young girls. They don't have a life."
Reggie Graham says he's never seen them stop to take a break.
Reggie Graham: "They don't talk, they don't do anything and the smile looks rehearsed."
So "we" decided to watch the girls ourselves. And we noticed they are in constant motion.
You can see their t-shirts stick to their backs with sweat.
Their only breaks - when traffic is moving or when they're taking orders from this man who sits in the shade.
Clearly he is in charge - here dismissing one of them with a wave of his hand.
Joseph Strachan: "I am a saved preacher, these are my daughters, they are saved also."
He says his name is Joseph Strachan. The girls say they are 20 years old.
Carmel Cafiero: "What is your name?"
Tyesha Strachan: "Tyesha Strachan. I'm saved washed through the blood of Jesus and filled with the holy spirit."
Nyesha Strachan: "Nyesha Strachan. I also have the testimony of the saved washed through the blood of Jesus and filled with the holy spirit."
The girls claim they are asking for money for their church building fund.
That's the same thing Strachan told me.
Joseph Strachan: "We are collecting a church building fund."
Joseph Strachan: "Every preacher in America ask for money!"
But we discovered there is no church... Even though the name of a church and address appear on the envelope the girls show to drivers.
In fact, when we went to the adress, all we found was an empty lot.
Joseph Strachan: "Who's her boss? Who hire this lady?"
Strachan was aggravated by my questions, but eventually admitted - the money is for personal use.
Joseph Strachan: "The little change we collect so far we eat drink, we wear and pay rent. What you want us to sleep on the road?"
Carmel Cafiero: "So your children are begging for money for you?"
Joseph Strachan: "Oh my God."
He doesn't see a problem with asking for money for one thing, but using it for another.
Carmel Cafiero: "So how much do you take in annually?"
Joseph Strachan: "Well - ah - I wouldn't go into that."
Brodie White: "There's a deceptive trade practice, intimidation and emotional appeal being made. All things the Better Business Bureau would warn against."
Brodie White, President of the Better Business Bureau, says streetside solicitations can harm established charities by taking away dollars that might have been donated elsewhere.
Brodie White: "It wouldn't be the way I want to raise my children, that's for sure."
Carmel Cafiero: "Wouldn't they do better in a job some place than begging on the street?"
Joseph Strachan: "This is not begging. The bible says you preach the bible should live by it."
Carmel Cafiero: "In this case, it turns out the girls are not minors which was a major concern for the people who contacted us. If you're asked for money there's nothing wrong with finding out how the money will be used before making a decision to donate. If there's something you think we should investigate give me a call or send an e-mail. We'll take a look."
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