Are 'sports players' begging for money at intersections cashing in on your kindness?

Men believed to be posing as athletes to get donations

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - You likely see them at intersections all over South Florida.  

In most cases, they claim to be collecting for their football team. But are they really cashing in on your kindness?

"I've seen them here for a few months already," Sam Lazar, who works in northeast Miami-Dade County, said.

Lazar said something didn't seem to be right when he asked the men questions recently at a northeast Miami-Dade intersection.

"He just walks away. They are not wearing uniforms. They don't have name tags on them," Lazar said.

One the men did tell Lazar he was collecting for the Fort Lauderdale Wolverines. 

Local 10 News investigator Jeff Weinsier recently spotted the same two young men at the intersection of Northeast 26th Avenue and Ives Dairy Road.

Both had signs that said they were collecting money for new uniforms.

One of the men claimed to be a wide receiver, and the other said he was a quarterback.

Both men told Weiniser on hidden camera that they were collecting for the South Florida Titans, which they said was a traveling "semi-pro" team.

But when the two men saw a Local 10 News TV camera, one bolted right away and the other refused to answer questions.

"Not today, sir," the young man said, as he scrambled through cars to get away from Weinsier and the camera.

"Here is my card. Can we talk to you about who the coach is or what you are collecting for?" Weinsier asked several times as the man eventually began to run.

Local 10 News checked with legitimate, registered semi-pro leagues and teams in South Florida and around the state.

All said they never allow their players or anyone associated with their teams to ask for money at intersections.

"This is first and foremost a safety hazard. We have an administrative order that prohibits this," Mark Trueblood, a commissioner with the Florida Football Alliance, said.

Trueblood said there is a team called the South Florida Wolverines in his league, but he doesn't recognize the two men.

Nikkolas Bocanegra, who owns the Miami Immortals, a semi-pro team in Homestead, also forbids begging.

"We are involved in Center Play at Hard Rock Stadium. We do fundraising at the American Airlines Arena concession stands. We sell merchandise. There are other ways of fundraising," Bocanegro said.

Trueblood and Bocanegra have never heard of the South Florida Titans.

There is no registered team or organization by that name with the State Department of Revenue as a nonprofit.

"I would not advocate anyone giving money at an intersection. If they are legit, they will talk to you, they will set some time aside and they said, 'This is our plight and this is what we are trying to do,'" Trueblood said.

"It's not begging, it's stealing," Lazar said.

A spokesman for the Aventura Police Department said officers often ask individuals to move out of intersections.

The Miami Dade Police Department said it has received no complaints about this activity in unincorporated northeast Miami-Dade.

It's certainly each individual's choice whether to donate or not. But the next time "this team" takes to the intersection, at least you now know their "play."

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