Bonnie Gould and her daughter Makayla were having lunch at a McDonald's in Topsham, Maine, when they claim they heard two seemingly homeless men talking about scamming money from the elderly (video below).
The Goulds told WCVB that employees informed them it’s not an unusual scheme, so Bonnie stood next to the panhandlers with a sign that read “FRAUD,” and told them, "We heard everything that you were saying inside McDonald's, and you are fraudulent.”
In the video of the confrontation -- which has gone viral and has been shared more than 50,000 times -- one of the panhandlers yelled back, "That’s none of your business!” and allegedly became physical.
Makalya told NECN that one of the panhandlers -- who were later identified as Mary Rouselle of Brunswick and Carl Brown of Bath -- ripped her cellphone out of her hand, injuring her fingers. Bonnie also alleged that she was hit below the neck.
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Both Rouselle and Brown have since been charged with assault. "It’s our job to make sure everyone is safe and [to] take a neutral stance on [panhandling]," said Topsham Police Chief Christopher Lewis.
Lewis noted that it’s a First Amendment right to let people panhandle for money and therefore, police have no authority to remove them from public property. "It is up to the individual to decide whether they give them money, and choose to believe what’s on the sign," said Lewis.
Bonnie and Makayla both volunteer at food pantries and donate to homeless shelters and their aim isn’t to keep anyone in poverty -- they just want to make sure the money is going to those who actually need it.
"I hope people see these videos and recognize them and not give money to them," Bonnie said.