NORTH KINGSTOWN—North Kingstown Police arrested a Middletown man Monday morning for posing as a representative for a veterans charity in front of a number of businesses on Post Road. George Henry Begin, 61, of 31 West Main Road, Apt. 20, Middletown, was charged with four counts of obtaining money under false pretenses, totaling over $170.
“It happens periodically, but with the development of the internet, we have more issue with the computer type and telephone scams than we do the individuals,” said Police Chief Thomas Mulligan. “This is kind of old school, so to speak.”
Begin, who is described in the police report as ‘short’ and ‘stocky’, has been targeting customers at businesses throughout Rhode Island for many years. On June 18, officers were dispatched to Kingston Pizza on Post Road for a solicitation complaint. The owner stated that Begin tried to gain money from him, but was suspicious because of his ‘disheveled appearance’ and asked for identification.
Begin then said he would send the documentation and left Kingston Pizza. Officers intercepted the Middletown resident and during their questioning, Begin stated he was the chief officer for the New England Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (NEPVA).
According to the report, Begin told officers, after denying initially that he was not soliciting donations, that he did receive $5 from an employee at Sign-A-Rama. He also noted that he did not have a peddler’s license in North Kingstown.
At that time, Begin was processed at NKPD and released with a municipal court summons to appear on July 24 for violating the town’s peddler’s license required ordinance.
Mulligan, however, noted that Begin’s actions went far beyond a typical peddler’s license violation.
“Typically, peddlers going door-to-door making sales are required to register with the town, and they are kind of vetted through the police department to make sure they are not unscrupulous,” said Mulligan. “This gentleman had never gone to the town hall, never made anyone aware he intended to go door-to-door.”
“He has a history of doing this, going back years, so his situation is a little different than other peddler violations,” he added. “Most of them will make their application and rectify the situation before court. This guy goes around scamming businesses for money under the umbrella of being somehow affiliated with veterans.”
During North Kingstown’s follow-up investigation, it was discovered that Begin had been soliciting money as a false member of NEPVA on numerous occasions for the past several years. Having spoken with the owner of Sign-A-Rama , officers learned that Begin had obtained money from that business in the past, and the owner made the original complaint once he recognized Begin from previous encounters.
“Shop owners are a little more aware of [scamming], and that is what happened at Sign-A-Rama,” said Mulligan. “Several years back, [the owner] recognized this guy from a past issue and called us. [Begin] had several receipts in his possession which led us to suspect other businesses were scammed.”
Elementz in Wickford has also been a target, and the owner there noted that he had been giving donations to Begin for several years. Furthermore, Begin was previously charged with 25 counts of obtaining money under false pretenses after an arrest by Warwick Police in 2006. He pleaded no contest to three counts, serving one year probation and paying restitution. The other 22 counts were dismissed.
NKPD also spoke with Debra Freed, executive director of NEPVA, who stated that her office has received numerous complaints about Begin posing as an employee to solicit money from businesses across the state.
“I have had to deal with this issue over the last several years,” said Freed. “Mr. Begin has never been a volunteer employee of the organization, and he has never made a check donation or presented us with a check.”
“He had been nothing but a thorn in the side of this organization, [and his actions] put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” she added.
For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the August 8 issue of the Standard Times.