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Police Search for Phony Charity Scam Artist
COLUMBUS (Maria Durant/Ken Hines) -- Police are searching for a suspected con artist believed to have targeted hundreds of central Ohio businesses as part of a charity scam.
Businessman John Palmer said of suspect Joseph Steward, "The guy was good," while describing his donation to what he thought was the Wounded Warrior Project.
"This guy, suit, nice firm handshake, you would never have thought it was a scam," said Palmer, the sales manager at Global Academy Used Cars on Cleveland Ave.
Columbus Police Fraud and Forgery Unit detectives believe Steward has targeted at least 300 businesses, convincing employees to donate money to the the legitimate veterans charity. Steward is also suspected of perpetrating the scam in Grove City.
Columbus Police Detective Erik Stoddard says Steward has been apprehended in connection with a solicitation complaint in the past, at which time officers confiscated receipt books and charity documents.
"He's been all over the place, which is why I'm expecting calls from not only the victims, but from other jurisdictions also," Stoddard said.
Police believe Steward has been operating the scam for at least five months.
Detective Stoddard says charity organizers have told him they would never go to a place of business to solicit donations.