Posted 5 years ago on Nov. 11, 2011, 5:53 p.m. EST by TheKing
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This is one sweet swindle. Two booze-swilling grifters raked in as much as $200 a day at the Occupy Wall Street protest by taking turns holding the same handwritten sign that read, “Diabetic . . . Need donations for juice and other supplies . . . Please help me . . . My meds are expensive.” “Stop taking pictures! Stop taking pictures!” one snarled before folding up the cardboard sign and skulking away. Legitimate protesters called the con one of many scams turning squalid Zuccotti Park into a beggar’s banquet and said the number of panhandlers hassling passers-by for cash has skyrocketed in the past few days. Some of the panhandlers themselves admit they spend their profits on food and booze instead of “the movement.” “You walk through and every camp has a bucket. They use the money for anything,” admitted Army vet Patrick Koller, 24, who is a panhandler himself. He asks for cash donations at the park’s “dog station” for food and veterinary care for protesters’ pets -- but he confessed to shaving a generous share off the top of the up to $150 a day he takes in. “I take about 25 percent and put it in my pocket and buy food, water, et cetera. The rest goes to the dog station,” he said. Another panhandler said he’s seen colleagues keep the cash for themselves, but he insisted his own panhandling operation was for the good of the park. “You got a lot of people out here pocketing this money,” said Bernard Patrick, 36, of Louisiana. “But I’m not. I tell them it goes to the movement.” Actual protesters say they’re at their wits’ end. “I tell them, ‘Hey, there’s free food, cigarettes, blankets, medical. Why do you need money?’ ” fumed protester, Michael Rodriguez, 24, of The Bronx. “Unless you’re collecting donations for a working group, I don’t want to see it.” Most of the beggars work the west side of the park along Trinity Place, standing atop a stone wall holding buckets and screaming “money!” and flashing a sign that reads, “Don’t be that guy!” when a passer-by ignores them. And one man and woman notorious among the protesters used their infant as a prop, claiming that donations would go to the protest when, in fact, the couple would pocket the cash. “People said it wasn’t right for him to be collecting money on behalf of Occupy Wall Street when he was using it for himself. He was making hundreds a day,” Rodriguez said, adding that other protesters had chased the man away from the park on Wednesday. Meanwhile, an apparently drunken Rochester man was busted early yesterday after a Pennsylvania-based EMT, Jason Dwyer, 20, was injured while trying to place him in an ambulance. Joshua Ehrenberg, 20, was charged with felony assault and obstructing government administration shortly after midnight.