‘Fake’ panhandlers hurting those truly in need - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

'Fake' panhandlers hurting those truly in need

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Anthony Smith talks to FOX19's Brett Hoffland about using comedy to gain the attention of passing cars. Anthony Smith talks to FOX19's Brett Hoffland about using comedy to gain the attention of passing cars.
Melvin Vincent appears in court for after police found he was begging for money and claiming to be homeless, but actually lives with his girlfriend. Melvin Vincent appears in court for after police found he was begging for money and claiming to be homeless, but actually lives with his girlfriend.
CINCINNATI (FOX19) -

A shady panhandler appeared in court Tuesday.

Police say Melvin Vincent claimed to be homeless, begged for money, but actually lives with his girlfriend.
 
You may also remember Gary Thompson, the bogus beggar, who preyed on people for money, while pretending to be handicapped. He's been in and out of the court system.
 
FOX19 spoke to people who are living on the streets for real and they say these imitators are hurting them.
 
"Everybody you see on the street, whether they're dirty or dusty, they're not bad people. All people don't do drugs, all people don't drink," said Anthony Smith.
 
Smith says he struggles with mental health disabilities, and child support cuts into half of his monthly income he gets from disability.

But he turns to comedy to gain the attention of passing cars.

"My angle is I crack jokes, that's the way I get people to laugh, maybe they might want to give me a buck," said Smith.

But in three hours time, drivers gave Smith only three dollars, and he says hearing about people faking disabilities or lying about their income is frustrating.
 
"It burns my butt to be honest about it because they make it bad for the people that are really struggling and really trying to get somewhere," said Smith.

"They make it bad for the people that really need it like me," said Maurice Howard.

Maurice Howard sits up along Race and Central Parkway most days and says he's been denied social security three times. He continues to push forward and says every once in awhile, someone gives him hope that everything will be okay.

"One time a woman came up because she sees me all the time and she blessed me and gave me a one hundred dollar bill," said Howard.
 
But there are strict rules to panhandling. The Cincinnati city ordinance says it's illegal on any public transportation, within 20 feet of an ATM, at any bus stop, or within 20 feet of a crosswalk. It's also against the law to solicit in an aggressive manner or make a misleading representation of why you need the extra cash.
 
"Basically they're putting us in a tight spot. It's kind of tough but I made sure I did the laws before I did this," said Smith.
 
Another one of those laws is you can't panhandle between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
 
If you break any part of this ordinance, it's a fourth degree misdemeanor. Police say three times in one year will get you a third degree misdemeanor.

Related: Scammer claiming disability arrives in Cincinnati

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