Police warn of scam targeting churches

Police warn of scam targeting churches

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police are investigating a scam that allegedly targets churches.

According to a police report, a man entered a Champaign church and solicited money from the congregation during an evening Lenten service on Feb. 20.

The man, who identified himself as Alan Michael Farah, arrived prior to the service to talk to the pastor about donations.

He then told the congregation, which was not identified by Champaign police, that he was an intern at a local hospital, that his parents had died and that he needed to travel back to Syria to assist with arrangements.

The congregation collected several hundred dollars and gave it to the man, who left following the service.

Church members who later did an Internet search found the man's photo and learned that Alan Michael Farah was the name used by a man who committed similar scams in multiple states.

"Congregants are warned to always verify the identity of unknown persons who ask for money and to contact police if they believe that they have been the victim of a scam," Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said in a statement.