NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Nashville petition is urging local leaders to impose steeper punishments for people convicted of repeatedly using aggressive tactics to scam others out of money.
Creators of the online petition, which had more than 600 signatures Friday night, said it was inspired by one accused swindler in particular. They said for years, Paul Aniel has been spotted trying to scam people on mid-state roads. Drivers said he pretends to be broken down on the side of the road and flags people down for help, then tricks them into handing over money.
"I see him right here at exit 62," Lisa Smoot said. Smoot signed the petition and said she's seen Aniel more than 10 times over the years. "I've seen him off of Briley, I've seen him off of 440."
She said once he cursed at spit at her when she tried to warn another driver about the routine.
The scam stories are nothing new, in fact NewsChannel 5 did a report highlighting Aniel and his history in 2016. Aniel has a rap sheet full of crimes, from resisting arrest to more than a dozen solicitation charges. But Smoot says, nothing seems to happen.
"It's frustrating," she added.
That's why she signed a petition asking Nashville leaders to give harsher penalties to Aniel, and other people repeatedly convicted of aggressive panhandling or scamming.
"I was actually excited that somebody had taken that step," Smoot said. "They need to actually serve real jail time, it doesn't need to be a slap on the wrist, a fine, in-and-out of court, it needs to be real jail time...Nashville has grown so much and we have so many visitors, we don't want to get a reputation for visitors being harassed by scam artists."