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Man who claimed to be homeless faces fraud, obstruction charges

August 26, 2013

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia State Police said a man who indicated he was homeless and held a sign claiming to be a veteran while panhandling for money multiple times was found to reside at a Martinsburg apartment building, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Charles Ashby Atkins, 78, of South Raleigh Street was arraigned Friday night by Magistrate Robert L. Lowe II on single misdemeanor counts of fraudulent schemes, obstructing, pedestrian on the interstate and failure to obey a traffic-control device, the court records said.

Atkins was spotted near the intersection of Apple Harvest Drive and exit 12 of Interstate 81 Friday evening holding a cardboard sign that read: “Can u help a vet, please thank u,” Trooper B.D. French said in a complaint filed against the defendant.

Atkins, who was found with $850 in cash and five unopened packs of cigarettes, said he was given the money and cigarettes by people while he sat near the intersection over the course of a few days, French said in the complaint.

French said Atkins told him he was “just attempting to get money from ‘people with sympathy’ to help him pay his utility bills,” when the trooper questioned him about why he was leading people to believe he was homeless by panhandling, the records said.

When asked why he did not obey multiple orders to stay away from the interstate, French said Atkins replied that he had “the most success there,” records said.

On July 18, Atkins, when found at the intersection panhandling, told French he was trying to get money for his camp, “nearby in town,” the records said.

On July 31, the defendant said he needed money to pay his electric bill before service was disconnected, records said.

When French asked him why he previously said the money was for food for his camp if he was not homeless, the defendant said he resided in an apartment in town, records said.

Atkins wouldn’t elaborate at that time when he was asked again why he previously stated he was homeless, records said.

French said he saw Atkins on Thursday walking away from the exit ramp, but the defendant denied being there that time and said he would not return, records said.

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