Group panhandling for charity raises concerns of possible scam

Group spotted by News4Jax crew won't say how money raised is spent

By Scott Johnson

Jacksonville, Florida -- A group of people collecting money Friday at a Southside Boulevard intersection caught the attention of a News4Jax crew.

The four people were at four center medians at Southside Boulevard and Touchton Road, holding buckets saying that they were raising money for families and children, but the information was very vague.

When we drove by, one man said the group was collecting for Deeper Life Ministries.

But when we stopped to talk to them about where the money would be going, the group ran off.

Our crew tried to follow them across busy Southside Boulevard, and by the time we caught up with them at a nearby gas station, someone had blocked in their vehicle, apparently also interested in knowing what the group was doing.

One of the men rolled down a window and spoke briefly.

“We’re not trying to get on the news because they always just say bad things about Christ Jesus, so we don’t talk to the news,” he said. “They say bad things about Christ Jesus.”

We tried to ask questions, but the window was rolled back up and the group wouldn't say anything else.

Members of the group, who were dressed nicely and wearing safety vests, collected money for at least two hours, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the intersection, and our crew saw a lot of people giving money. It's possible they were there longer.

After our encounter with the group, we looked into Deeper Life Ministries and found multiple media outlets across Florida have reported on the aggressive panhandling of a group with the same or a similar name.

We also learned the group did not request a permit from the city of Jacksonville, which is required to collect money for a charity on public roads.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the lack of specifics the panhandlers offered is a cue police should get involved.

“They don’t need to investigate any further,” Smith said of anyone wary of the collectors. “Just contact police and allow them to investigate it, because they can call City Hall to see if they do have a permit. And if they don’t, then they can be arrested.”

The state of Florida has a registered not-for-profit group called Deeper Life Ministries, but it is not permitted to receive charitable funds.

It's unclear how much money the group collected Friday on the Southside.

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