St. Landry

May 16, 2012 7:03 PM by Tonya LaCoste

Police: Eunice man pretends to be New Black Panther Party member; charged with theft

A Eunice man who has for years claimed to help people through his New Black Panther Party affiliation is indeed not a member, according to Eunice Police Deputy Chief Varden Guillory. Joseph Lawrence, 43, is accused of stealing money from people who sought his help, and he collected money from at least four victims, said Guillory.  Lawrence is charged with felony theft.

In February, Lawrence collected $700 from someone who sought legal help through what the victim thought was the New Black Panter Party. Lawrence claimed he was the National President. "After accepting the payment, Lawrence advised the victim everything would be ok, and he would be along side him in court to assist him. After first meeting with Lawrence and providing him with the payment, the victim did not hear from Lawrence again. The victim attended the 15th Judicial Court to answer to his charges where Lawrence did not arrive to assist him," according to court documents.

The New Black Panther Party advised the victim that Lawrence was not affiliated with the group and Lawrence should not accept funds on its behalf. According to court documents, Eunice police received complaints from three other people who claimed Lawrence swindled them out of money. "These three additional victims also provided Lawrence with different amounts of money which he had advised them was fees for services from himself and the New Black Panther Party. Each of these victims contacted Lawrence at separate times and for separate reasons."

Lawrence did not provide any services to any of the victims in return for the payments made, and when he received payments from his victims, he ended all contact with them, said police. The New Black Panther Party issued a public notice bulletin and email warning that Lawrence was not affiliated with the organization, according to court documents. The bulletin also included a photo of Lawrence warning the public against his alleged fraudulent practices.



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