95ºF

Family accuses panhandlers of using dead grandfather's photo on sign

HOUSTON – The family of an elderly man killed in a hit-and-run crash in 2018 have accused a pair of panhandlers of using his picture to solicit money from drivers at intersections throughout the Houston area.

Miguel Ramirez Sr. was killed after a vehicle struck him while he was crossing along the 6100 block of Lyons Avenue on Houston's east side.

"He was very giving," said Norma Delgado, Ramirez's niece.

Delgado said her family had not gotten over Ramirez's death, when they learned of a pair of imposters claiming to be grandchildren of Ramirez. Pictures show the pair, at various intersections, holding a poster board and a bucket with Ramirez's picture taped to it, begging for donations to pay for a funeral.

The picture was taken from a flyer produced by Crime Stoppers in an attempt to find the driver who fatally struck Ramirez.

"This is senseless," Delgado said. "People are using my uncle's picture to gain profits off his death."

Andy Kahan is Crime Stoppers director of victim safety and advocacy. Kahan told KPRC2 Crime Stoppers did not authorize anyone to use Ramirez's picture.

"I've been around a long time, over 30 years involving criminal justice and law enforcement, and I've seen a lot. This is the first time I've run into anything so insidious and despicable," Kahan said.

Kahan suspects the pair in the pictures have used similar tactics, preying on people's sympathy to make money.

"This tells me this isn't their first dog and pony show," Kahan said.

KPRC2 has learned law enforcement is investigating. The Ramirez family contacted Harris County Precinct 6 Constables Office. They also asked motorists to keep a lookout for the pair and not to give them money.

"Very raw emotions and everything goes back to the notification in the middle of the night, middle of the evening that he had passed, that he had been hit, running to the hospital. Everything just comes back to the forefront," Delgado said.