HUDSON FALLS — Josh Warner opened a shop for his charity, Upstate New York’s Helping Hands, earlier this year to help those who are down and out.
He was happy to help a couple from Argyle who came to him on Monday, little more than a day after a fire destroyed their home.
But as the couple waited in a side room of his John Street shop, a woman came in the front door and said she was there on behalf of that very family, requesting toys and clothes for children.
ARGYLE — A home off Lick Springs Road was destroyed by fire late Saturday, and investigators traced the blaze to an area around the home's furnace.
Warner knew the Argyle couple did not have children, which he told the woman. He said she “scrambled” out of the store at that point.
“The family had never seen her before,” he said. “She was caught red-handed.”
The encounter was not overly surprising to Warner, a landscaping company owner who has come across many scam artists in the months since he set out to help the less fortunate and opened his shop.
He has had more than a dozen people come in claiming to be involved with efforts to aid fire victims or others in need of assistance, only to find out later that none of what the supposed good Samaritans had taken were turned over to those who need it.
He said numerous people came in and claimed to represent a Queensbury family that lost a home to fire last summer, and Warner later found out the family got very little of what was taken from his shop on their behalf.
“We learned our lesson on that one,” he said.
That has resulted in changes to policies and practices to weed our fraud, which include only dealing with two representatives of a family, Warner explained as partners John Rowland and Candace Adams worked to stock shelves and tables.
Warner said he is getting the surveillance video for Hudson Falls Police to try to identify the woman who tried to defraud him Monday, though it was unclear whether any charges were warranted.
Her picture will, at the least, be added to the “wall of shame” that sits above the front door, where pictures of those who stole donations from in front of the store have been posted.
The Argyle family who lost their home was in need of kitchen items, houseware items and gift cards for fuel, Warner said. Items can be dropped off at Upstate New York Helping Hands’ shop to pass on to them.
Warner, meanwhile, is gearing up for his first Christmas season with his store, having set up special sections for children in need to find gifts for children and parents to get presents for kids. There is no fee for the items.