Escondido man denies setting up bogus charity for slain cop
VISTA, Calif. — A man accused of trying to bilk charitable people via a bogus website soliciting monetary contributions for the family of an Escondido police officer killed in an alleged domestic shooting pleaded not guilty Friday to nine felony charges, including forgery.
Sami Ahmed Saeed, 25, who was arrested Wednesday during a search of his Escondido home, was ordered held on $200,000 bail.
Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn said that Saeed was recently fired from his job as a security guard at the North County Fair Mall and posed a financial danger to the community.
Shortly after Officer Laura Perez died in her Murrieta home July 23 — allegedly at the hands of her husband, 27-year-old Freddy Perez Rodas — the Escondido Police Department began receiving reports of an apparently phony online site soliciting donations that supposedly would benefit the victim’s 4- year-old daughter.
The website stated in part: “The men and women of the Escondido Police family and all city of Escondido employees are shocked by the tragic loss of one of our own. We ask for time to grieve and take care of Laura’s family … We are humbly asking if you even have a few dollars to help, to please donate,” according to a declaration in support of a motion to keep bail at $200,000.
A police investigator learned of Saeed’s alleged involvement in creating the website and contacted Laura Perez’s family, who said they didn’t know the defendant, according to the court document.
“Fortunately, the scam was discovered before any contributions were made,” EPD Lt. Eric Skaja said.
Saeed, who also has been accused of being involved in several bogus fund- raisers for a young cancer victim, allegedly was in possession of stolen credit cards and items used to manufacture credit and identification cards.
Saeed was charged with four counts of using the personal identifying information of another, three counts of forgery, and one count each of possession of a forged driver’s license and receiving stolen property.
At the time of his arrest, Saeed was out on bail after having been jailed on suspicion of stealing cellphones from shoppers at a local mall.
“This type of fundraising scam that aims at victimizing not only two families going through personal tragedy, but also the public wishing to assist them, is particularly heinous,” Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said.
Rodas allegedly has confessed to shooting Perez in the chest during an argument and then setting their house on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.