by: Greg Suskin Updated:
ROCK HILL, S.C. - Pastor Ronal King called police when he saw a man he had seen before panhandling outside a Rock Hill grocery store Thursday.
"They're taking advantage of the good love of the people here," King said.
When police pulled into the Earth Fare parking lot on Cherry Road, 42-year-old Danut Chiciu ran into Carolina Pharmacy at the corner of the complex.
Police charged him for soliciting without a permit.
However, police believe he could be part of a large group of people traveling and begging for money.
The arresting officer said Chiciu was connected to a group of about 20 people from south Florida who drove to Rock Hill to beg for money, according to the police report. King said they drive around in minivans, dropping people off at strategic locations in major shopping areas. He said it's a con game that appears to be well orchestrated.
"When the van comes in they pick up the old group, and drop off the new group and rotate," he said.
Other shoppers told Channel 9 they had seen the same people around for several weeks outside the Dave Lyle Walmart.
"They sit over there by a minivan," said Shelby McClain. "The van had a Florida tag."
As a pastor and homeless advocate, King is worried that the community is being taken for a ride and some will give money to people who aren't truly in need.
He remembers seeing a woman with them in a wheelchair.
"There was nothing wrong with her. Someone came to pick her up and she got out of that wheelchair, lifted it and put in in the truck," he said.
Police found Chiciu with $181 on him. He admitted it was all from begging that day.
Officials said they have warned him numerous times about panhandling.
Chiciu has a home address in Hollywood, Florida.
Police said the city of Rock Hill does issue permits for solicitation, but it only applies to certified tax-exempt groups and charities. Those charities must be local to the York County area.
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