Beware of serial panhandler's 'out of gas' scheme

Paul Aniel has been arrested more than 100 times. (Source: Metro Nashville PD)

A serial panhandler who has been arrested more than 100 times is at it again.

Paul Aniel appeared to be a businessman with a moment of bad luck, someone who had ran out of gas on the side of the road.

That's what Monnie Lawrence thought, until she realized she'd been scammed.

“This guy made you feel like he really needed help,” Lawrence said. "My heart and my idea was in the right place, but boy, he was in the wrong.”

Lawrence felt sorry for the man, who appeared to be a stranded motorist.

She saw him on Harding Road at the southbound on-ramp to Interstate 65. It was a cold, rainy December day.

"I use the word ‘gentleman,’ because he was dressed very nicely. He was standing next to his car and he's waving people down, making the signal he needed to use a phone," she said.

She stopped. He asked for gas money, and she said she gave him the $20 she had for her grandchildren’s lunch money.

"As I'm pulling off, I look in my rear-view mirror, and here he is, waving down another car. And I told the boys, I think Mamaw just got taken," she said.

Turns out she was victimized by Paul Aniel, a man with a record of more than 100 arrests in Nashville, mostly for panhandling.

Metro police have quite a collection of his mug shots dating back to 2009.

"It puts a bad taste in my mouth for helping people,” Lawrence said. "I mean, that's pretty sad, when you have to investigate someone you want to give $10 to.”

Court records show Aniel goes to jail for a day or two, sometimes longer, but those longer sentences weren’t handed out very often.

The records show Aniel was charged Wednesday for the same kind of crime - pedestrian solicitation. The case went to court Thursday and the judge dismissed the charge. Neither the district attorney’s office nor the judge’s office were able to respond to Channel 4’s questions about why.

The panhandling crimes are misdemeanors, but Aniel has had some more serious convictions, such as felony evading arrest.

So far in 2016, Aniel has been arrested 8 times by Metro police.

"Surely there's got to be some kind of a law that says if you're arrested 115 times they can keep you for a while," Lawrence said.

Copyright 2016 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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