News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Two people from Augusta have been arrested and charged after Aiken Department of Public Safety investigators say the two were raising money for the funeral of a dead relative who wasn't actually dead.
20-year-old Lebrooke Shannice Smith and 20-year-old Zachary Lacasey Sims are accused of trying to get money from drivers along Fabian Drive/Road to pay to bury a family member.
"Help me burry [sic] my mom!!" read two posters collected by Aiken Public Safety as evidence. "Please donate!"
Additionally, both signs donned pink breast cancer ribbons. A photo provided by Aiken Public Safety shows one of the two used a pink plastic Jack-O'-Lantern to collect the donations.
"Well, the first thing I thought was I wanted to give them some money, because it's breast cancer, and it was their mom, so you feel sorry for them, and you want to help," says Melissa Ball, who saw the two during a trip to the nearby Walmart Supercenter.
Minutes later, officers arrived to investigate. After questioning, officers arrested and charged to two with Soliciting Without a License and Obtaining Money by False Pretenses.
"We spoke with both individuals involved by separate officers, and each individual gave us a separate name of who was deceased and a different funeral home for the person who was allegedly deceased," says Detective Jeremy Hembree. "This was a scam where these individuals were just standing on the side of the road taking people's money."
An incident report says the two were able to collect $664.11 from drivers before they were arrested. That cash was taken into evidence.
"We have some generous people in Aiken, and they took advantage of them," says Ball. "They need to get their act together and realize that they're hurting people."
On Thursday, Smith and Sims appeared before Magistrate Judge Melanie DuBose for a bond hearing at the Aiken County Detention Center. Both were granted a $3,222 bond.
In an incident report, investigators say one of the suspects admitted it was a fraud and that the money would be used to pay bills.
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