KPD calls group soliciting funds in West Knoxville a fraud

KPD calls group soliciting funds in West Knoxville a fraud

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"They were very defensive. They indicated they were trying to raise money for a charity through their church, but yet they could not give us the name of the church," said Darrell DeBusk, KPD spokesperson. "They were very defensive. They indicated they were trying to raise money for a charity through their church, but yet they could not give us the name of the church," said Darrell DeBusk, KPD spokesperson.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Police say a group of solicitors spotted at several intersections in West Knoxville is a fraud.

Earlier this week, 6 News looked into the group after receiving several concerned calls from viewers.

The group has been moving from intersection to intersection and between city and county lines, but when asked what the name of their organization was, one woman said "it's confidential."

The group was stationed at Lovell Road and Kingston Pike on Thursday. They were carrying buckets with various names. Some said "Feed the Children," another said "New Life Christian Church" and another said "Project Verso."

It's the same group 6 News saw at Morrell and Kingston Pike over the weekend, a group KPD says is a fraud.

"They were very defensive. They indicated they were trying to raise money for a charity through their church, but yet they could not give us the name of the church," said Darrell DeBusk, KPD spokesperson.

KPD cited them for soliciting without a permit.

"Three of the individuals are from Florida, one is from South Carolina and two of the individuals had outstanding warrants for their arrest from three different states," DeBusk said.

The warrants were for similar charges in other states. DeBusk said that's their game.

"You'll see them pack up and move to another busy intersection and another intersection," he explained.

They have moved around Knoxville and into Knox County.

When we asked the Knox County Sheriff's office earlier this week, 6 News was told it was allowed because they were a nonprofit.

According to Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong, it is illegal to collect money in intersections.

According to the county code:

"No peddler, street barker, solicitor, solicitor for charitable purposes, or solicitor for subscriptions shall:

(1)   Be permitted to set up and operate a booth or stand on any street or sidewalk, or in any other public area within the county."

After speaking to the law director Friday, we asked the sheriff's department again about the group. We received this statement from Sheriff Jimmy JJ Jones:

"We deal with nonprofits at intersections on a case-by-case basis. We make sure they are not impeding traffic or are a safety hazard to themselves and others."

When asked to clarify what case by case meant when the code said it is not allowed, we received another statement.

"As long as they are not impeding or creating a safety hazard to themselves or others, then no citation will be issued.  If there are any safety concerns, then they will be told to leave." 

The sheriff's office didn't issue any citation. As for the city's citation, DeBusk said the group indicated they'd pay for it from the donations.

"They inquired how much the citation was, the officer indicated it was around $100 and they said ‘That's no problem. We'll just take the money out of the bail.' That's again another sign this is not a legitimate operation," he said.

We searched New Life Christian Church and found one in Virginia; they said they had no affiliation with a group seeking donations. There is a Project Verso in Atlanta. We were unable to reach anyone with the organization to ask if they were connected with the group in Knoxville.

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