Scammer targeting church members in Knox County

Scammer targeting church members in Knox County

Michael Allen Jones (Image courtesy Knox County Sheriff's Office) Michael Allen Jones (Image courtesy Knox County Sheriff's Office)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There's a warning for Knox County churches, after leaders say their congregations have been approached by a man with a fake sob-story, asking for money.

Church leaders tell us Michael Allen Jones goes by many names including Carl Davis, Robert Anderson, and Trevor Popovitch, among other aliases. He has a long criminal history including criminal impersonation, theft, drugs and driving violations.

"His story is always the same. That he has a wife or a mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer in Pennsylvania. And that he and his two sons were trying to get back there. He says his two sons were at the bus stop waiting, and that he was trying to get that last bit of money. It's usually $15-$20 to purchase the bus ticket," explained Randy Frye, pastor at Fountain City United Methodist Church.

He says they've had members fall victim.

 "He knows a lot of pastors and a lot of churches and says he goes to the church, or he's a member, or knows the pastor," explained Grant Standefer with Compassion Coalition.

His group works with over 200 Knox County churches, many of whom have had their members targeted in places like Market Square, for example.

"Apparently he's able to turn on and off his emotions as he needs to, and people give him money," he added.

While police reports have been filed, there's not much police can do. Church leaders want the public to know his face.

"Asking for money, even if you aren't truthful is not a crime. It might be immoral, but it's not illegal. There's nothing law enforcement can do to stop this man, and that's why we want to be proactive," Frye said.

There have been some cases where Jones has been described as aggressive or threatening. If you have any questions about someone asking for money, Compassion Coalition has a screening process to see if  that person is legitimate. You can contact them for help.

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