NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man has been scamming small businesses by posing as a New York City police officer looking for donations, according to the NYPD.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Richard Gomez, 43, is not a cop. But police have been looking for him since he allegedly went to three different stores and identified himself as “Sgt. Russo from the NYPD.”READ MORE: Bodycam Video Shows Moments Before NYPD Lieutenant Was Shot In Ankle Apprehending Suspect In The Bronx
He then asked the business owners for a donation for sick children of police officers, police said.
“He was like, ‘Oh, thank you so much!’ He was so grateful; polite,” said Eliana Sevilla, manager of Salsa con Fuego on Cedar Avenue in the Bronx. “You know, he sounded legit. He was going by the name ‘Sgt. Russo.’”
Sevilla said she wrote out a check for $1,000 after she received phone calls and an email soliciting donations for the phony fund. The fake cop even allegedly provided an example of how to make the check out to his real name — Richard Gomez.
“My boss actually called the precinct to confirm that there was indeed a Sgt. Russo and follow up with them,” Sevilla said, “and they confirmed that there wasn’t.”
Sevilla said she emailed Gomez and told him she was on to his scam. So he never ended up getting the money.
Gomez did not dupe management when he showed up at Caridad Restaurant on West Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx either, staff said.READ MORE: Several People Shot Outside Queens Laundromat, Police Investigating
“The manager was here ready to give him a check. But the manager here happens to carry a gun with permit, and then he thought, he probably thought (the manager was) the real cop,” said Benny Rodriguez. “And then he kind of panicked.”
Witnesses said Gomez bolted out of the restaurant.
This was not the first time Gomez tried to pull off a stunt like this, authorities said. He was arrested in March of last year after allegedly trying to scam a Brooklyn restaurant.
He was arrested in March 2014, after allegedly hustling the owner of a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn, sources said. In that case, Gomez claimed to be a member of Community Board 10 and that he was raising cash for children of people in the neighborhood killed in an auto accident, sources said.
Police said Gomez was able to get a small donation at Bagelsmith on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn while posing as an officer.
He came here impersonating a police officer or a detective.MORE NEWS: COVID In New York: Mask Mandates Not Being Re-Imposed Just Yet As Concern Grows Over Delta Variant
Anyone with information about Gomez’s whereabouts was asked to call the NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS, log onto the Crime Stoppers website, or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.