Authorities have apprehended a woman who fraudulently collected money from several businesses after claiming she was raising funds for the Toys for Tots foundation.
The suspect, Marsha Lynn Foster, 47, of Decatur, was apprehended by the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department at her home Saturday afternoon. Foster was arrested on charges of theft by deception and identity fraud after targeting businesses in Dacula, Winder and Cartersville.
Police identified the suspect after managers at two Cartersville businesses became suspicious. One of the managers made note of the license plate number as well as the make and model of the suspect’s vehicle. Authorities traced the vehicle to a rental car company where records indicated the vehicle had been rented to Foster. Cartersville Police subsequently issued warrants for her arrest.
According to the Department of Corrections website, Foster has been imprisoned on three separate occasions after convictions for fraud, forgery and theft by taking. Most recently, Foster was released from prison in 2007 after serving an eight month sentence for first degree forgery.
On November 13, at the Stars and Strikes family entertainment center in Dacula, event coordinator Tara Friedman became suspicious of the woman after she failed to present any identification or any type of donation request letter.
In an email to local chamber members, Friedman said the suspect claimed to own several Verizon stores including one in the same shopping center as Stars and Strikes. In her pitch to Friedman, the suspect explained that the Verizon stores were teaming up with Toys for Tots for the holidays. According to Friedman, the suspect said that V-105 and members of the Atlanta Falcons would be holding a live remote at the shopping center and asked if Friedman would be a sponsor.
Friedman did not donate any money, but gave the suspect her business card and asked the woman to send more information.
On Monday, November 16, Friedman received a call from a business in Winder. The suspect successfully collected $50 from Barberito’s restaurant after presenting Friedman’s business card as her own.
Susan Mattox, the owner of Barberito’s, reported the incident to Winder police and said that the suspect was “very professional, very friendly and seemed very legitimate.”
The suspect reportedly used a similar story to the one she had used at Stars and Strikes, but took it a step further by “giving” Mattox a receipt for a free birthday party for six people at Friedman’s business.
The suspect used the same scam at two other businesses. Both times, Friedman received calls after the fact from business owners attempting to verify the suspect’s story. In both cases, the owners gave the suspect $100.
Friedman described the woman as ruthless.
“She's very convincing. Please make your staff aware and pass the information on so that your business is not victimized,” Friedman said.
Det. Sergeant Rachel Love of the Winder Police Department said the Foster incident was unfortunate.
“As the holidays are quickly approaching there are many charitable organizations that are genuinely seeking donations,” Love said.
Police offer the following tips for dealing with individuals seeking donations:
• Obtain the representative’s photo identification or other credentials.
• Obtain the charity organization’s information including a business card or other literature.
• Do not give donation immediately. Take the time to contact the agency to verify the representative’s credentials.
• Most charity organizations will provide a donation request on letterhead and will not ask for cash only.