Convicted thief back to his old tricks as businesses report being scammed
BATON ROUGE- Business owners in Baton Rouge once again say they are the victims of a convicted thief who has a history of preying on people's goodwill.
The owners of Bistro Byronz and Zydeco Printing both say they are out thousands of dollars in food and printing they provided to Montrell McCaleb.
Emelie Alton said she tried to make McCaleb a happy customer after he complained about the meal he was served last year. She offered him a free meal, and that opened Pandora's box.
"We continued to try to turn him into a happy customer, and apparently, we turned him into a very happy customer," Alton said.
She wound up donating hundreds of dollars in food to a charity McCaleb says he started. Then, McCaleb asked if she would donate more to a Christmas lunch he was hosting. Alton thought it was legitimate because McCaleb asked her to be on the board of the organization and used Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's name, saying the mayor was involved with it.
"Mayor Broome has not endorsed [McCaleb's] work nor given him permission to use her name," the mayor's office said Tuesday.
"He came back again and said he was doing something for Christmas for the staff and teachers and kids," Alton said. "Asked if we could put together another meal for him. I said we would be happy to do it, but we couldn't donate it again. We would be happy to work within his budget."
Alton prepared more than $1,000 in food that McCaleb picked up and never paid for. He asked to put it on a house account, and when it came time to pay, he avoided her.
"He had my personal cell phone," Alton said. "He would text me, call the restaurant looking for me. So I tried texting, calling the number, and tried calling the non-profit, couldn't find him. Everything disconnected."
McCaleb is a former Capital Area Transit System (CATS) board member who used agency money to pay his phone and cable bill.
"I was accused of taking money from CATS. I didn't take money from CATS," McCaleb said in 2014.
McCaleb later admitted to his crimes in 2016.
One year later, WBRZ exposed McCaleb had set up numerous different charities and was operating under different aliases to get people to donate food and money to him in the name of helping children.
"No comment, Chris Nakamoto," McCaleb said when we ran into him in 2017.
In 2018, he did the same thing with a different charity. A former employee said it wasn't long before she realized it was a scam.
"I'm not going to talk to you," McCaleb said.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit went looking for McCaleb for his latest activities. His organization is now set up in a strip mall business on Plank Road. No one was there, and five phone numbers that we had for McCaleb were all not working.
Alton and others want people to know about McCaleb and the aliases he might be using: Montrell McCaleb, MJ McCaleb, Montrell Henderson, M-Jovan Henderson, MJ Henderson, RJ Henderson and others.
"I'm not going to hold his mistakes against other organizations, but it makes you more hyper-sensitive," Alton said. "That there are people out there doing this and are scams."