GEAUGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - Geauga County Chief Deputy Scott Hildenbrand wants all residents to be aware of a local scam asking for money that claims to be associated with the sheriff's office.
Behind an untraceable phone, the caller impersonates real officials, using kids as the hook. In some cases, generous donors hang cash right on the door for them.
"It's very frustrating," said Joe Tucholski.
Middlefield Police Chief Joe Tucholski has been a police officer for almost 20 years.
For the last 10, Middlefield Police have taken care of kids at Christmas, raising money to Shop with a Cop. Now, he's part of several departments in Geauga County looking for whoever is behind the phone scam, impersonating well-intentioned cops, like him.
"The key is that they're saying they want to come and pick up the money, even though you're not there. And they'd ask you to give them cash. And if you could just tape it to the door, they'll stop by and pick it up," said Hildenbrand. "[The real sheriff's office is] not going to come out and pick up money. They certainly aren't going to pick up cash. So it's someone who's taking advantage of them, and at the same time, it's giving the legitimate FOP fundraiser a bad name."
The caller says he's raising money on behalf of the Geauga County Sheriff's Office in partnership with the local FOP.
"They need to come with us when we do the Shop with a Cop program and see what these kids are all about, and see what the program is about, and see how it touches the children and their families, and all of us," said Tucholski.
The sheriff's office wants to emphasize that they're not involved with the Lake Geauga FOP #16 in raising money for "Shop with a Cop," "Sheriff's Office Yearbook," or any other fundraiser on their behalf.
According to the sheriff's office, they've received about eight complaints.
"It's theft! They're stealing money from people," said Hildenbrand. "The detectives are on it and since we've put the information out, we've gotten a lot of tips."
Any resident who receives a suspicious call from someone asking for a donation on behalf of the Geauga County Sheriff's Office for any of these or other fundraisers is advised not to give any money.
If you have given money to them already, call your local police department or sheriff's office.
An investigation is ongoing.