Aiken Public Safety Officers say they have a con man behind bars tonight for the eighth time in three years.
Antonio Neal was arrested Sunday, charged with solicitation and obtaining goods under false pretenses.
Aiken Department of Public Safety officers say Neal is such a repeat offender that they know his name by heart. But it seems their hands are tied when it comes to keeping him off the streets and out of your pockets.
Lt. Mark Farmer says he is frustrated by ex-cons like Antonio Neal.
"Once they do their time, whether it be in jail or a fine, they are going to be back out in the community, and unfortunately not all of them are rehabilitated," Lt. Farmer says. "They end up coming back out and committing the same crimes."
Antonio Neal was arrested Sunday for the eighth time since 2003. He is charged with numerous counts of solicitation and obtaining goods under false pretenses.
Neal approached Ken Green last Friday.
"He said that Brandon Bowers, who's our youth minister, had given him my name, and he was in need of money for a bus ticket to get to Columbia. He was a graduate student and his mother was ill and just got recovered," says Green. "It didn't sound good, and his story got worse as I confronted him and I finally told him I wouldn't be able to help him."
Green called Aiken DPS to let them know Neal had approached him for bus money to get back to Columbia. Green suspects Neal got his number from the Millbrook Baptist Church directory.
"The bad thing about people like him is he has a need...it just isn't money," Green says.
Green isn't alone. There are six incident reports on file against Neal since May. And Lt. Farmer says there may be more victims who have not come forward yet. But he says there are ways to protect yourself.
"The best advice I can give anyone is, if someone says they need food, buy them food. If their child needs medicine, buy them medicine. Don't just arbitrarily hand out money, because you don't know what they're going to do when they get it," Lt. Farmer says.
How can someone be back on the streets after eight arrests?
That's one source of frustration for the police. Misdemeanor offenses like these carry a maximum penalty of only thirty days in jail and a $1000 fine.
Some law enforcement officers would like to see stiffer penalties, but that decision, of course, will be up to the state legislature.