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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

A Televised Arrest, More Allegations in AIDS Charity Scam

In the end, Atlanta fraud suspect James Sanders was foiled by the old flower-delivery ploy Wednesday. That’s how WSB-TV Action News producers, reporter Tom Regan and Hapeville police officers finally nabbed Sanders and in time for the evening newscast.

You’ll recall that Sanders was initially sought in an alleged connection with various scams using Sir Elton John and his Elton John AIDS Foundation to score free cakes and furnace repair work. After Regan’s first piece aired this week (featuring Sanders running out of a prior residence and screaming at the investigative reporter), a Hapeville neighbor reported her new shady neighbor to Regan.

Hapeville police, with guns drawn, yanked Sanders out of a closet Wednesday and transferred him to DeKalb County where he was due in front of a magistrate court judge late Thursday afternoon to answer to two felony counts of theft by taking and two counts of forgery.

Before staking out the courthouse, Regan told us: “It was a great experience to be able to do a story like this, to get assistance from viewers and the police and have it result in an arrest.”

Another tidbit Regan uncovered? He says Sanders is wanted in Florida and Pennsylvania on similar charges. Unfortunately, more local businesses are also coming forward with reports of being scammed by being allegedly contacted by Sanders on behalf of Sir Elton’s Atlanta-birthed charity.

Coco Loco Caribbean Cafe in Buckhead reports, it too, is out $2,000 for food after a man purporting to be an EJAF rep stiffed them on a bill — and after promising them 20 tickets to an Elton John concert.

The suspect was no stranger to Georgia Equality executive director Jeff Graham when he saw him on his TV screen this week. Graham confirmed to Buzz Thursday that he had various run-ins with Sanders years ago during Graham’s lengthy tenure as executive director of the city’s AIDS Survival Project.

According to Graham, Sanders also once posed as a Coca-Cola corporate exec, calling in to report a $100,000 donation to the AIDS non-profit from an anonymous deceased Coke exec who had passed away from the disease.

“One of our fund-raising reps came into my office all excited,” Graham recalled. “All they needed was a route number and our bank account number. That’s when I said, ‘This departed Coke executive’s name wasn’t James Sanders, was it? Bless his heart, he always used his real name for some reason!”

Honeymoon Detour

Andy Konigsmark and Dodi Darrow are getting married Saturday in North Carolina, and had planned to honeymoon in sunny Cancun.

As you might guess, those plans are shot.

So the groom, a Cobb County native, and his Tar Heel bride, will start married life right here in Atlanta.

Konigsmark, a 1996 graduate of Campbell High School now working as a a missionary Baptist minister in Telluride, Colo., had been working in secret to plan the trip to Mexico. He didn’t even tell his friends, lest someone spill the beans on Facebook.

But with swine flu warnings growing more dire, he knew he’d have to come clean. He told Dodi that he’d intended to take her to Mexico, and that they’d need a Plan B — just days before tying the knot.

Enter Stone Mountain travel agent Ron Kalpak and WSB-AM’s Pete Combs. The newsman called the fly guy the other day for a radio interview on how the deadly flu was impacting travel plans. Kalpak told the young couple’s tale of woe on the radio.

The new Hotel Palomar in Midtown, it turns out, was listening. Soon after the piece aired, the hotel was on the horn to Kalpak, offering to put the newlyweds up for a couple of days. They’ll dine gratis at the hotel’s swank restaurant, Pacci.

Knowing his client was a Braves fan, Kalpak called the club’s new farm team in Gwinnett. Yes! the Gwinnett Bravos said, send the Konigsmarks our way!

“In my 30 years of doing this, this is a first,” Kalpak said. He got refunds for the original trip, and has therefore worked himself out of a commission this week. But he says that’s all part of his job.

“I told Andy, I promised you that one of my goals is to help you set up a memorable honeymoon,” he said.

Overscene

“Felicity” actress Amy Smart and co-star Tom Malloy, in town promoting their latest film, “Love N’ Dancing” lunching at Thrive in Centennial Tower downtown. Smart ordered a California roll and then the grouper sandwich. She was torn on what to get so she called the waiter back to change her order. Malloy got a sushi plate with sparkling water. Turns out, a Thrive staffer is a big fan of Smart’s so the lunch tab was picked up.

Celebrity Birthdays

Singer Judy Collins is 70. Singer Rita Coolidge is 64. Actor Dann Florek (”Law and Order: SVU”) is 58. Singer-songwriter Ray Parker Jr. is 55. Atlanta musician Johnny Colt is 41. Bassist D’Arcy Wretzky (Smashing Pumpkins) is 41.

Contributing: Jennifer Brett and news services.

Got a tip for Buzz? E-mail it to us at buzz@ajc.com. Now follow Buzz Central updates on Twitter. Go to twitter.com and search “peachbuzz.”

2 comments Add your comment

Wink

April 30th, 2009
9:18 pm

In the video James Sanders runs like a barefoot old lady on hot sand.

Savvy

May 5th, 2009
8:52 am

This was the funniest news report to watch last week.