MONTICELLO, Ark.- In the small town of Monticello, a volunteer firefighter has been arrested for selling raffle tickets for fundraisers that do not exist.
“A gentleman came into my office and said he was selling raffle tickets for a fundraiser,” said Hilda Cox, Scam Victim.
Hilda Cox is one of 60 victims who bought raffle tickets from Lareco Walker, a volunteer firefighter for the East Pulaski Fire Department.
“The way they found out it was a hoax, is someone call the East Pulaski Fire Department and found out he was a volunteer there but there was no fundraiser,” said Cox.
By the time Walker was placed in handcuffs, he collected $391.
Walker was wearing an East Pulaski County Fire Department t-shirt, radio and pager. Which Cox said made the fundraiser seem legitimate. Not only the uniform but he had a whole speech to go with it.
“(he said) Several firefighters were in town and they were going to have a big display at the Walmart that afternoon, we needed to come out and see the equipment and I gave him 5 dollars for a ticket,” said Cox, “glad I only gave him 5 bucks.”
Just down the road, Julie West, owner of All Occasions flower shop said she donates to a lot of local organizations but this is the first time she had been scammed.
“It’s not about the $5, it’s the fact that he was telling everyone what it was for and we were trying to help fire victims,” said Julie West, Scam Victim, “very disappointed because I feel like he knew he shouldn’t be doing something like that, that’s not his job. His job is to help people not to scam people. ”
West said Walker went into her brother’s business, dropped by her hair salon and it seemed walker came into contact with everyone West knew.
“He went out by the bowling alley, the market place, I mean they covered every business in town,” said West.
West thought she was donating to help fire victims, while Cox was told the money was for fire equipment and when police spoke with Walker, they were told the money was for 75 bikes.
“The basis for the fundraiser was changing depending on who he was talking to,” said Jason Akers, Monticello Police Chief.
All the different stories lead to the police being able to catch him in the end.
According to the police report, Walker was carrying around a laminated piece of paper that stated the money was to buy 75 turkeys and 75 bikes and a 55-inch T.V.
“Our community, is a very donating, giving, volunteering community, I mean we are awesome that way and things like this take advantage of that,” said Akers.
Both West and Cox who fell victim to this scam said this won’t deter them from donating in the future, it will only make them more cautious of who they trust.
This isn’t Walkers first run-in with the law, according to the police report, when Walker’s information was put through the system, it showed his driver’s license was suspended and he had a very lengthy rap sheet.
Walker is facing 60 counts of theft by deception, which is up to one year in jail and a one thousand dollar fine. Walker is also facing one charge of obstructing governmental operations.
As for everyone who donated money, according to police, they are waiting for the okay to give it back.