'Change Gang' Allegedly Collecting Money For Homeless Returns To Staten Island

WPIX, New York/April 23, 2010

By Tamsen Fadal

Staten Island - If you live or drive on Staten Island, you have probably seen them several times, a group of people who wear safety vests, shirts and ties and walk through intersections collecting cash.

According to the Staten Island Advance, the men and women who carry buckets labeled "Help Feed The Homeless," are back again at the intersection of Richmond and Narrows Road in Concord, asking for donations.

No one seems to be able to say where exactly the money is going, and the paper states that police are warning walking into traffic to collect money, legitimate charity or not, is illegal.

The Staten Island Advance reports, when asked by a reporter, the people taking donations refused to give their names or say the name of the charity they were working for.

One man referred requests for information to his "pastor" across the street, while the so-called pastor -- the same man caught by an Advance photographer collecting at the same intersection in March 2009 -- refused to say who he was collecting for.

One member did speak out later when asked, and told the reporter that the group was from "New Life" church, which, he said, has several locations across the country.

Critics told the paper that the money may go to New Life Church in Tampa, where Deeper Life founder, "Bishop" Melvin Jefferson, lives.

In 1999, the church itself and five members were convicted in a $20,000 food-stamp fraud ring. Jefferson and his wife were also arrested, but were both acquitted, according to the Staten Island Advance, which tried to reach the church yesterday.

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