NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York State’s top lawyers are looking into several groups that may have tried to profit from the family of a Bronx teenager who was brutally stabbed to death in June.
Officials say the groups might have been trying to raise money for themselves under the guise of #JusticeForJunior. City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-15th) says the family of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, the teen killed after being falsely targeted by the brutal Trinitarios street gang outside a Bronx bodega, is going through yet another round of heartbreak. At least one if not several groups are acting as charities attempting to scam the family, according to Torres.
“Whenever there is tragedy, there are vultures trying to exploit the tragedy and profit from the family,” he said.
Torres says Junior’s mother filed a complaint with his office after a group which calls itself the “New York State Community Affairs Bureau” acted as a government agency. He says they contacted the Guzman-Feliz family saying they could help them shut down other fraudulent groups who were trying to scam them.
“He had the audacity to go inside the home of Leandra Guzman-Feliz under false pretense, have them sign a letter that authorizes them solely raise funds for Junior’s name on the family’s behalf,” said Torres.
The man behind the group, according to Torres, is R.A. Gregg, who the City Council has attempted to shut down in the past. The Bronx councilman says Gregg wears phony uniforms and badges to fool people. He denied any wrongdoing when CBS2 contacted him via phone.
“We have not tried to get over on people, nor will we,” said Gregg. “It is a non-profit organization and they are aware of it.”
Junior’s mother tells CBS2 she has not authorized any groups, including the “Justice for Junior Foundation” which officials say at one point had a donation button on their website that has since been removed. They’re also being investigated by the State Attorney General’s office, but the foundation says its intentions are pure.
“We did not receive any public monies as a foundation… all money we used and had was our internal money,” said the foundation’s Khalil Abdul Mohammed. “We have been behind everything you’ve seen in the media that’s positive on behalf of the family and with the family.”
Two rallies were held outside the bodega in the Belmont section which has been shuttered since Junior’s death. His mother stopped by to let the public know those who want to support her son’s memory with money should be careful where they donate.
“I don’t give permission to anybody et, I need to see papers and review with a lawyer,” she told a growing crowd.
Legal experts say when the potential donors or families are approached by a foundation offering to help, they should always do their homework.
“They have to be really careful because they are a lot of a lot of businesses that are in it for the money,” one lawyer said. “You have to get a contract that would show that you’re getting most of the benefit to the charity, not to the individual business that’s soliciting somebody.”
The attorney general’s office continues to investigate and is encouraging anyone who may be suspicious of a scam in honor of Junior should contact their office.
A dozen alleged gang members were indicted in the teen’s vicious murder last month. Police believe the violence was the result of “intra-gang conflict” between the Los Soros sect of the Trinitarios, allegedly led by Diego Suero, and the Sunset sect. The owner of the bodega where the teen was brutally slain told CBS2 he hopes to one day rename it “Junior’s.”
For those wishing to help Junior’s family, his mother says there’s only one GoFundMe donation page that she’s approved which can be found HERE.