Talk about low-level corruption!
Three alleged grifters, who police say claimed to be representing Bay Ridge’s Community Board 10, were collared by cops last week for allegedly fraudulently collecting donations for Bay Ridge’s community board — and witnesses suggest they may have been pulling a borough-wide hustle.
Police picked up two men and a woman last Friday whom they allege bilked the owners of a new eatery at the corner of 71st Street and Third Avenue out of $20 on Feb. 27 by claiming to be fund-raising on behalf of Community Board 10.
Authorities reported that the threesome went into recently opened Turkish restaurant Pashazade at around 3 pm that day and told the owner that they were collecting money on behalf of CB10 for the family of a local boy killed in a hit-and-run incident. The owner gave a Jackson to what she believed was a good cause.
The accused con artists then allegedly went across Third Avenue and tried to solicit from another restaurant owner, who found the troika’s tale suspicious — and said he discovered that the scam may span much of Brooklyn.
“This sounded fishy to me from the beginning, because I knew the community board wouldn’t do something like that,” said Anthony Loupos, owner of Glow Thai. “They were so full of s— from the moment they walked in, it was hilarious.”
Loupos said that when he asked to see some kind of identification proving that they were affiliated with the board, the three just showed him a bag full of cash and checks — and a Gmail account called “Friends of the Community Board.” As they scrolled through the account’s sent mail, Loupos said he noticed “Thank you” messages sent to restaurants in dozens of different neighborhoods, purporting to be from several different community boards. The restaurateur said he knew for sure then that he was in the company of crooks — and pretty bad ones at that.
“They weren’t the sharpest criminals,” Loupos said. “It was laughable. To show me the e-mail address as proof of who they were was just ridiculous.”
Loupos said the three high-tailed it when he made it clear he was not going to donate. He said he phoned CB10 to be sure they were not sending around solicitors, and then called the police. Then he phoned Pashazade, and learned that not only had the owner given the trio money, but that one of the alleged chiselers had told her that they could expedite her liquor license for a mere $650 — and left a phone number.
Loupos said that the Pashazade proprietor — who declined to comment for this story — made arrangements to meet again with one of the accused fraudsters at her restaurant Friday night. The suspected swindler showed up for a 7 pm appointment with the eatery owner — and several plainclothes cops.
The Pashazade owner and the alleged scammer met at the restaurant and talked about getting the Turkish joint a booze permit, while police officers in street garb sat at neighboring tables and stood nearby outside. The other two in custody allegedly made the mistake of accompanying their accomplice back to Bay Ridge, and according to Loupos were pacing the street close at hand. This enabled the cops to nab them all at once when they attempted to leave.
Police said that the triumvirate in custody are currently only charged in the $20 fraud at the Turkish joint, with one count of petty larceny and criminal impersonation each. They would not confirm Loupos’s account.
Community boards are the lowest rung of city government, staffed by volunteers who advice city agencies an officials on issuse and policies affecting their area.