Scam artists and thieves prey on storm victims

Scam artists and thieves prey on storm victims
By: Arnold Wyrick

Mt. Vernon, IL - It wasn't bad enough that the storms, that tore through the Mt. Vernon area Friday afternoon knocked out power to thousands of people, now they're having to deal with a new set of problems.
Scam artists and thieves are taking advantage of the people whose lives were ravaged by the powerful storm.
Sterling Williams came home to his house only to find that someone had burglarized it when he was away.
"When something like this happens it's a perfect opportunity for thieve to come around.  Because they know there's no power here.  So people either leave their homes to go stay with other family members that have power.  Or leave a window open while they're gone to air out their home.  So it's a perfect opportunity for thieves to just come in and ransack homes," Williams said.
That's not all the problems plaguing people in the Mt. Vernon area as they try to put their lives back together.  Firefighters who are going door to door to check up on the damage and peoples needs are discovering a very disturbing trend taking place in some neighborhoods.
"We've got people in the area doing scams.  Once again we want to make sure that everybody realizes don't put out an money for someone to clean up your yards, or repair your homes, until the state or city crews can assess the damage.  We have free storm damage clean up going on right now," says Lieutenant Kevin Sergeant of the Mt. Vernon Fire Department.
But perhaps the most disturbing thing taking place in the storm damaged area is persons taking the free meals from the American Red Cross, and Salvation Army, and reselling them in their own neighborhoods.
"That's just wrong they shouldn't be doing that, because other people really need the food.  Like around here some of the people can't even get out of their home to go get food.  It's just wrong for them to do that," says Veronica Edwards of Mt. Vernon.
The Mayor and firefighters are asking everyone  to please refrain from burning the downed limbs and trees scattered throughout their yards, as there are still live power lines strewn throughout the debris.
The American Red Cross has set up a shelter for folks at the Central Christian Church for those who are in need a place to stay, or who are in need of food in case the mobile vendors can't get to their neighborhoods due to the blocked roads.