By Tony Lopez

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A local charity was scammed by a Christmas culprit who made very big promises, but didn’t deliver. Now, a popular charity is left scrambling to help needy families.

Another gift arrived, and the tears were on their way.

“It kind of makes me want to cry,” said Carolyn Brodt.

You can’t blame her for getting emotional. Spontaneous Santas like Jim Mazarelli and Pat Church have been coming into the Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center all day long dropping off toys and other goodies.

The donations have been steady ever since folks heard about what happened. It was an act that sounded like a Christmas miracle.

“So (the culprit) went on our website and she chose 26 families,” said Brodt.

The charity had found a generous donor, or so they thought. More than two dozen formerly homeless families thought they were getting their Secret Santa.

“I think they’re like a Grinch,” said one woman.

It was a heartless hoax for the holidays. When the gifts didn’t arrive, the emergency housing center began to wonder.

“So that’s when we realized we’re in crisis,” said Brodt.

They were dealing with a scam artist who’s done this before.

“You know people do these things, and you just figure out why do they do these things,” said Mazarelli.

“I think they’re a very sick, selfish individual,” said Church.

The popular charity WEAVE nearly got duped as well.

“What we found out is that this person has been doing this kind of thing repeatedly for a number of years with a number of different organizations, and unfortunately, some people have fallen for it,” said Brodt.

But now, some people are making good on broken promises.

“Out of something that could’ve been horrible, we’re seeing kindness and generosity, and the goodness of people,” said Brodt.

Goodness overcoming evil, it’s a story plot that goes well with the Christmas season.

“It’s just heartwarming,” said Brodt.

What this woman did is not considered a crime, but her name is being put on a watch list so charities don’t fall for it again.


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