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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Car Raffle for Somis School Hits a Bump in the Road

Education: Board officials fear possible door-to-door scam in Monterey Park involving a legitimate bid to raise funds for new science lab.

February 20, 1999|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOMIS — Talk about hot tickets.

Somis school board President Jim Bushong expected raffle tickets to go fast when he donated a 1963 Corvette to a fund-raising campaign for a new science lab at the tiny campus, but he never expected these kinds of sales.

Bushong and other officials at the 450-student campus learned Friday that someone may be selling bogus raffle tickets door-to-door in Monterey Park.

School officials received a phone call from a woman in that Los Angeles County city wanting to know whether the fire engine-red coupe was really being raffled to raise funds for the school north of Camarillo.

Officials said the raffle is legitimate but warned no one should be peddling the $25 tickets door-to-door in Monterey Park or anywhere else.

School officials immediately called the Monterey Park Police Department to report the possible scam.

"It could very well be there's nothing wrong but we don't want to take any chances," said Bushong, who last spring donated the classic car he has owned for 18 years to help boost the fund-raising effort.

"The sad part is there are people out there willing to support schools and help kids out and somebody may be taking advantage of that," Bushong said. "That's a crime."

Well, not yet. In fact, Monterey Park police said because office workers at the Somis school failed to get the caller's name or phone number, there was no way to follow up on the matter.

But police there said they take such reports seriously and that detectives and patrol officers have been told to be on the lookout for scam artists.

"Right now we can't prove whether it's fraud or not," said Lt. Jones Moy, acting captain of that city's police force. "Obviously fraud is one of the big concerns in any community. We have taken an incident report on it and we will follow up if we receive additional information."

School officials are particularly concerned about the potential for fraud because of the outpouring of community support they have received so far for creation of a science lab at the K-8 campus.

The school already has raised about $105,000 of the $225,000 needed to build the science lab. The bulk of that money has come from donations.

Shortly after the start of the school year, officials began selling raffle tickets for the Stingray Corvette. Officials have so far sold about 500 of the 5,000 raffle tickets available.

Most of those have been sold within Ventura County and are only available through the school district or a local hardware store, Supt. Richard J. Malfatti said. The drawing is scheduled for May 1 at the annual school carnival.

If enough money is raised by that time, Malfatti said, the science lab could open as early as next fall.

"We are trying to do this the good old-fashioned way, taking the resources we have and trying to make the most of them," he said. "So far we've had great support and that's what makes this so disturbing. It would be a shame if there are people out there who think they are doing something good for education but are actually being bilked by someone."

Malfatti said anyone who has questions on the fund-raising effort should call the school at 386-5711.

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