Update on Alleged Door-to-Door Scam / Public Safety Hazard in Genesee Twp.
Please read the full article to make sure you are fully aware of the facts. Many of the complaints the article is based on were posted to Facebook by area residents and are unverified by law enforcement or any other institution. The only complaints and statements confirmed by police are clearly identified as such.
We first learned of this story on Facebook, where friends of mine in the Kearsley area (most recently the Birdland neighborhoods) began discussing the issue and the comments on the salesman in question's behavior ranged from standard to downright creepy. So here's what we know so far:
A man, possibly Asian and in his 20s, is going door-to-door in Genesee Township selling children's books. He is driving an "older blue Dodge truck" with Texas plates. Some have said he is going by the name "Russell" or "Rudy," but his company informed us that his name is Russell Banzon.
UPDATE 7/7/14 3:00p: We were informed by the Genesee Township Police that Russell Banzon's peddler's license has been revoked due to too many complaints. If you live in Genesee Township and he comes to your door, contact the authorities because as of the date and time preceding this statement, he is not licensed to do so in the area.
The police department can revoke any peddler's license if there are enough complaints that it becomes an issue and if anyone suspicious comes to your door you should immediately call 911. They also advised that in any case where your home is approached by a salesman that you should never let them inside, never give them any personal information about your family or yourself and never tell them when you will or will not be home.
Not everyone conducted themselves in the manner suggested above, as there are reports of several residents giving Russell info (names and ages) of both their children and others in the neighborhood. As stated above, the police suggest that you should not give out this type of information to strangers.
Others reported (this was not confirmed by law enforcement) that the man's vehicle was sitting outside of their house (after his initial visit) at unusual times, from midnight until 1am in one case. There are also unconfirmed complaints of him refusing to leave people's porches and other unusual behavior. The police did, however, tell us about one scenario where a lady came out to her garage to find the man standing there.
The Genesee Township Police Department said a "transient peddler's license" for the township can be acquired with an application, $150, some personal information and a proof of insurance, but having one doesn't mean someone is on the "up and up. It is also important for you to know that a Genesee Township Peddler's License only allows a salesman to be on duty until 7pm, so anyone who is in violation of that should immediately be reported to the authorities.
Keep in mind that this could all be a misunderstanding, as just the nature of someone going door-to-door seems a lot creepier than it did in the 1980s. Then again, it may not be a misunderstanding. Either way, the only action you should take if you are suspicious of someone that comes to your door is to call 911 immediately. Be safe.
UPDATE 7/7/14 12:30p: We were contacted by Southwestern Advantage, the company that the Russell Banzon -- click here to see his company profile -- is employed by. The company, as described by its website, helps children improve their grades with their products, but also teach "college students how to build a business, manage their time, make good money and overcome challenges."
The people at Southwest Advantage told us that Russell is a college student at the University of North Texas and is legitimately working for their company as part of an entrepreneurship program. They also sent us this statement:
"Russell is a hard-working well mannered young person ... He is running his own business showing families our reading program, homework help, and SAT/ACT prep as a means of affording his own degree. He is not engaged in any underhanded activities as your article insinuates. Russell and his business are properly licensed, and he has been proactively in communication with the local authorities since his arrival."
Southwest Advantage asked that we remove the article, but there was such a large response to the initial posting that we simply could not overlook the general concern of the community.