MULBERY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County restaurant owner is desperate to find the man impersonating him and begging people for money.
It’s a bizarre case of identity theft.
In the last three weeks, more than a dozen people have showed up at Carter’s Bar-B-Que in Mulberry, looking to reimbursed or for free barbecue.
The owner of the popular restaurant, Johny Carter Jr., has heard just about every story.
“I gave a guy 30 bucks for gas, or I gave a guy 30 bucks for a flat tire, or I give a guy 40 bucks for a battery.”
Carter told News Channel 8 he is caught in the middle of an identity theft scam.
“This person is actually stealing in my name,” Carter said.
The man has been seen around Lakeland, claiming to be the owner of Carter’s Bar-B-Que and asking people for money.
“His car had broke down, he had a bunch of ribs in the back of his truck that he was donating to a charitable organization,” said Lakeland City Commissioner Bill Read, who is the most recent victim of the man’s story.
“I normally don’t give money to panhandlers per say, but he indicated that he was the owner of Carter’s Bar-B-Que in Mulberry. He even said the address.”
The man promised to pay Read back, or give him free lunch for a week.
When the victims show up, they meet the real Mr. Carter.
“Everyone describes him as a about a 60-year-old skinny black man, so I don’t fit that to start with,” Carter joked.
“It’s a shame, and Mr. Carter is taking the brunt of the heat for it, unfortunately,” Read said.
Carter said he has tried to help the victims out when they show up.
“I try to accommodate them, if they order something I’ll give them 50 percent off, or a bottle of sauce, but I’m not going to continue to do that. I can’t continue to do that as a business person,” he said.
Carter has a picture of the suspect and has handed it over to police.
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