‘Student’ teaches him a lesson

A Chico resident for 20 years, Bill Sands is a retired Chico State lecturer and Butte County urban planner now working part-time as a rural mail carrier.

Editor’s note: News & Review contributor Deidre Pike had a similar experience in Reno. Check online for her account.

They’re here—the hard-working college kids from Integrity Program currently mining your neighborhood for lucre to support worthy causes and commendable aspirations. Your check will help a charitable endeavor, reward enterprising sales persons and purchase a magazine subscription.

Sorry, neighbor, you’ve been had! The earnest life stories and lofty goals proffered to you are bogus.

My experience with the scammers began with Joseline (Josie), an artful grifter, affiliated with Integrity Program, advertised as a magazine subscription service based in Las Vegas. Josie presented herself as a serious student, enrolled in the school of architecture at USF. Home for the summer, she hoped to raise money for charity and an educational tour in Europe.

In my case, I would be donating dollars for children with cancer—specifically, a Disney book series for kids undergoing extended treatment at a cancer center in San Francisco. Josie informed me that her academic focus in Europe would be on the architectural styles of churches and public buildings in Cologne, Germany—"You know,” she said, “the ones that still have bullet holes in them from WWII.” Moreover, she insisted on including a car wash and barbecue at her parents’ house as bonus gifts for my donation.

What a role model! I cheerfully handed her a check for $50, payable to “Integrity PGM.”

The following day, I waited until noon for the promised car wash. Nothing. Annoyed and vaguely uneasy, I bicycled around the block to her alleged parents’ home at 667 Bryant Ave. I could find no such number. I spoke with a friend who lives on that section of Bryant and knows most of his neighbors; he had never heard of “Perry” or “Nowoleski"—the ostensible last names of Josie’s parents—and doubted the validity of the address.

A nagging doubt blossomed into stunned recognition: I had been conned.

I was embarrassed, angry, yet somehow sad that Josie’s Pollyanna story was fiction. I wanted to believe that someone like her faux persona was really out there doing all those wonderful things. Instead, I stopped payment on the check and phoned the Chico Police Department.

An administrative officer with the Police Department dutifully took a full report of my fraud complaint. Similar complaints had been recently logged by Chico residents.

I searched the Internet and found Josie’s photo on the Integrity Program Web site, listed as “Independent Agent.” I’m compelled to acknowledge Josie’s diligent labor and honed talent, albeit misdirected. She delivered a bravura performance for the folks at Integrity Program School of Acting.