Man accused of posing as a homeless vet to collect cash

Posted at 5:24 AM, Dec 09, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Lee County man is behind bars, charged with posing as a homeless veteran to collect cash.

Jeffery Prince is being held without bond on a charge of impersonating military personnel.  According to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Prince was dressed in full army combat gear and pretended to be a homeless veteran at a shopping plaza along N. Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers.

"I just think it's really sad when people do that," said a business owner in the plaza who witnessed Prince panhandling in the area.

He told Fox 4 he believed Prince was a true veteran.  "I saw a gentleman holding a sign wearing battle fatigues. I saw a Jeep Cherokee pull up, actually I  think the Jeep Cherokee was pulling over to kind of help him out with money."

According to an incident report, Prince claimed to have served in the army in Texas. However, he refused to tell authorities when he served.

Deputies later learned it was because he had never been a member of the Army, or any branch of the military.

"We feel like it's a mark against our veterans that actually served" said Ralph Santillo, Founder of Southwest Florida Military Museum.

Santillo who once served in the armed forces, comes from a military family and founded the Southwest Florida Military Museum in 2008. He told Fox 4 Prince's arrest is an offense to veterans across the nation, especially those who are dealing with homelessness.

"Every day there are veterans out there that are in trouble one way or the other, said Santillo. "For someone that is not a veteran to pretend that he is to get help is a shame," he added.