SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– The DeWitt Police Department has three suspects in mind after police received an inquiry regarding solicitors walking in the roadway and causing a traffic hazard along the area of Erie Blvd. E. and Bridge Street.

The people allegedly wore shirts and held signs depicting the organization’s name, presented paperwork bearing the charity’s distinct logo, and claimed to be collecting money for a Romanian child being treated in an Italian Hospital.

Investigator Justin Baum said he approached the group on August 31, 2022. “I interacted with them and I observed four people collecting money.” He adds. “Some of them more aggressive than others. Some of the individuals would walk up to cars and specifically say do you have any cash, others were just standing there with your poster board with the child’s face on it and they were wearing shirts with a child’s picture on it representing themselves, as in specifically this case, an organization called Save a Child’s Heart.”

According to police, they were driving a gray 2003 GMC van registered under Texas and stated that they were traveling across the United States to raise money for the ‘ill’ child.

After further investigation, police determined that the trio had been swindling money on behalf of the Israeli-based Save a Child’s Heart Non-Profit Organization, which also operates out of the United States. Police discovered that the individuals had no affiliation with Save a Child’s Heart and were not permitted to use the name or logo of the organization.

Investigator Baum said this was nothing like he’s seen before. “It all appeared to be an elaborate ruse in order to tug at people’s heartstrings and to get them to donate money on the roadside, to quickly encounter drivers that have that emotional sense of I want to help a child. They were obtaining money from them and before anyone figured it out, they left the area.”

The investigation revealed that the suspects had not given any of the proceeds to the non-profit organization. The child that the money was allegedly being collected for, had no affiliation with Save a Child’s Heart.

The police believe the suspects are 38-year-old Leonard Merisan Dumitriu, 36-year-old Augustine Menghes, and 20-year-old Nicolae Ademaru Radu, all from Romania. All suspects currently have pending charges for Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor.

“We will file for arrest warrants and they will go into the national system and if they’re picked up by a law enforcement agency, and that’s something that we want to have them sent back here for, then we can process them on the charges at that point,” said Investigator Baum. If it’s a matter of them leaving the country and trying to come back then a warrant being attached to their name will be a bar to entry to the United States.”

This investigation is ongoing and police do say that more charges may be forthcoming.

How to help police

The DeWitt Police Department asks that those who may have information in regards to the incident or the whereabouts of the suspects come forth. To contact the DeWitt Police department, call Investigator J. Baum at (315)449-3640 or email at jbaum@townofdewitt.com.