SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Several local restaurants say they have been duped by a man who claims to be doing a major fundraiser for the UCLA rugby team.
The red-haired man’s picture is now circulating in and around Santa Monica and Westwood in an effort to catch him.
CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen says many people thought they were giving to charity, but now it’s unclear where that money has gone.
It’s a story that is Only On 2.
Business owners on LA’s Westside say the man touched a soft spot and made off with their cold, hard cash.
“I felt stupid, to be honest with you,” said Nicholas Bishop of Aussie Pie Kitchen.
Bishop says the man who went by the name Mark McKadam came into the restaurant Thursday to set up a big-budget dinner party for the UCLA Rugby Club.
After the business meeting, he pitched a charity effort.
He said, “We’d like you to make a donation to cancer. It’s not for the team. It’s for cancer,” Bishop said.
Nguyen reached out to the rugby coach at UCLA, but he wasn’t able to get back to him.
However, Santa Monica Rugby Club President Miles Cotton says he’s been in touch with the Bruins’ coach.
“What’s been happening as far as fundraising goes has nothing to do with UCLA. It is a scam 100 percent,” said Cotton.
The staff at Library Alehouse in Santa Monica says McKadam walked in there Thursday.
And moments before he did, one of the bartenders got a text from the UCLA coach warning her about someone hitting bars for donations on behalf of the team.
So, she snapped a picture on him on her phone.
Nguyen reached out to McKadam to get his explanation on what happened.
In a series of text messages, he admitted to collecting about $1,000. But he said he got false information about the charity.
However, he never answered Nguyen’s question about what he plans to do with the cash in light of everything.
Bishop says he gave $100 to the “charity,” and so did an employee at a shop in Westwood.
Others who didn’t want to go on camera said they gave even more in what they called the effort to help fight cancer.
The experience has left Bishop “more leery and definitely more cautious now, for sure.”