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Alleged Panhandler May Have Moved On to Minneapolis

Mark Christopher Bell reportedly scammed people in St. Louis Park and Golden Valley.

It's been three-and-a-half weeks since issued a second arrest warrant for a man they say scammed several residents out of as much as a few hundred dollars.  Now police say he may have moved on to Minneapolis.

Minneapolis police issued a crime alert last week for the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood after receiving calls stating that Mark Christopher Bell was asking for money there.

"Do we assume he's moved on and out of Golden Valley? No, not at all," said Joanne Paul, crime analyst for the Golden Valley Police Department.  "We're still telling residents to stay alert and to call police if they see Mr. Bell."

issued its crime alert on Bell in early March, saying he was   It took less than 24 hours for police to get a lead from a local resident, and Bell was arrested and released on bail.

Police say since then, with Bell, and when he failed to appear in court they issued a new warrant for his arrest on March 30.  So far they haven't found him.

Shortly after that second warrant was issued, from residents who had contact with Bell. 

"I really believed he needed help," said Kerri Adelmann, one of the St. Louis Park residents who called police. She said she gave $40 to Bell.

"He walked up to my garage when I was getting ready to head out of town, so he totally took me off guard," Adelmann added. "A few minutes after he left, a neighbor showed me a picture of him from the Patch website, and I couldn't believe I'd been taken."

for soliciting without a permit in early March after a resident called police. The caller told police that Bell was going door-to-door saying he needed help because his car had broken down on the highway.

Police found Bell and say they disproved his story and arrested him for illegally soliciting for funds. He was booked and released, but didn't show up for his court date this week.

Police say Bell looked for opportunities to steal and often told people that he had just come from church.  He would say he needed money to get his vehicle out of impound or that his vehicle had broken down. Some people had given him cash and, in one case, someone actually drove him to a cash machine to give him money, police say.

"He was polite and well-groomed with an elaborate story, not the usual panhandler type you would expect," Adelmann said. "I am not the type to fall for this stuff."

Golden Valley police say just because Bell has recently been seen in Minneapolis doesn't mean he won't return here.

"Just be alert," Paul said, urging people who believe they see Bell to call police.

"Don't wait several hours or days before doing it," she said. "Our residents have been great about calling, but they're just not doing it soon enough."

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