- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two young men apparently delivered quite the pitch when they set up shop outside a McLean pharmacy to solicit donations for their high school football team. More than two dozen people forked over cash.

The problem? The D.C. public charter school in question, Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast, has no football team.

The solicitations were a scam, according to Fairfax County police. Two 20-year-old men now face forgery charges for the scheme, officials said Wednesday.

Kevin Lewis Crouch of Temple Hills and Jerell Henry of the District were arrested Sunday outside the CVS pharmacy where they had sought to collect donations. Appearing at least somewhat legitimate in nature, the pair carried folders bearing the school’s name and asked those who donated money to sign their paperwork, police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Based on the number of collected signatures, police estimate that more than two dozen people gave the men money that day.

Alexandra Pardo, the charter school’s executive director, said the two men have no affiliation with the school and she doesn’t know why they chose to use the school’s name.

“It’s just really unfortunate that these two young men would use Thurgood Marshall Academy in such a negative way,” Ms. Pardo said.

The 400-student high school, named for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, emphasizes elements of law and justice in its curriculum.

Police were alerted to the scheme by a woman who made a $20 donation and later, while researching the school, discovered that the football team was a ruse. She reported the activity to police, who stopped Mr. Crouch and Mr. Henry outside the pharmacy. Both had cash on them when they were arrested, but it was unclear how much was collected through donations, Ms. Caldwell said.

An attorney for Mr. Crouch could not be reached Wednesday. Online court documents listing an attorney for Mr. Henry could not be located.

Investigators do not know whether the men have tried to solicit money through the same scheme elsewhere. But as the start of the school year approaches and fund-raising drives by sports teams and other school groups ramp up, police are cautioning would-be philanthropists to stick to donating to groups they are familiar with.

“We’re not saying never give cash, that’s up to each individual,” Ms. Caldwell said. “But we’re saying, do your homework.”

The police department suggests that contributors check the validity of the organization prior to donating and also note that organizations typically accept cash as well as online donations.

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