SACRAMENTO-- Investigators said a pair of self-described Romanian gypsies raised hundreds of dollars in just a couple of hours by using their small children to get sympathy from generous shoppers.
The couple was warned by authorities to stop panhandling at the busy shopping center parking lot in Modesto on Pelandale Avenue. Modest police said the family was seen in the area panhandling about 10 times and became a familiar sight to shoppers. On Thursday, the family was not at the shopping center.
Police found the couple after receiving multiple complaints. They said the family raised nearly $400 in cash and gift cards within two hours of panhandling.
"They had said that they were gypsies," said shopper Wendy Ducos, who saw the couple on a regular basis asking people for money. "I believe that it was two kids, younger kids, that were with them when they were here."
Investigators said 27-year-old Marian Hornea and 25-year-old Elena Hornea used a sign claiming they needed a job. But when questioned by police, the couple admitted panhandling was their job, and they used their 5-year-old and 7-year-old children to get sympathy from shoppers.
Police said the couple had money transfer receipts that showed they sent thousands of dollars to relatives in Romania. The couple told officers they used an organized list of sites in cities across California to panhandle for cash to be sent back to family members.
After being questioned by police, the couple was cited for panhandling and released.
Court records show a Romanian woman close in age and with a similarly spelled name as Marian Hornea was cited in Orange County last year. Newport Beach police said the woman claimed to have no identification, so they couldn't confirm her identity.