The past few weeks have shown a renewed interest in the phony veteran solicitation issue within both Lee and Collier counties. Quite a few solutions have been bandied about including asking the shop owners to run these masquerading militiamen off the property or inquiring of them what their military occupational specialty (MOS) was in the hope of uncovering their act. But what our readers and business owners may not know is that a new law went into effect October 2010 in Florida, making it a third degree felony, punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, for any person to misrepresent himself as a veteran while wearing any military uniform for the purposes of soliciting charitable contributions.
We’ve used that law very effectively here in Bonita Springs to discourage these imposters from soliciting, not only on our public roadways but also in plaza parking lots and storefronts. The city’s code enforcement officers have also been provided with a copy of this law and in many cases have assisted the Lee County sheriff’s deputies who have responded to investigate these subjects when they’ve been spotted “setting up shop” with their plastic buckets and signs.
Our code enforcement officers are also prepared to cite these individuals under a city ordinance which prohibits these phony veterans from walking across or standing in traffic lanes to solicit funds.
All members of our Veterans Advisory Committee have been given a copy of this law and have been very active in educating their friends, relatives, business associates and clients on this new statute.
As we approach the “season,” and with Veterans Day right around the corner, we can expect these predatory vermin to come out of the woodwork again. I would encourage all citizens to contact your local police or sheriff’s office when any of these phonies are observed working the streets. Legitimate veterans — groups like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion — do not solicit on the street. Bonita Springs residents can also call the City Code Enforcement Office , 949-6257, and give the location of the offending subjects. Both law enforcement and code enforcement are ready, willing and able to respond and take the appropriate action.
Grossi is Chair of the Bonita Springs Veterans Advisory Committee; contact him at (239) 495-3018 or GrossiDave@aol.com