Man Caught Using Elderly Mother to Panhandle

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IRVINE, Calif. (KTLA) — An Orange County man is being investigated for elder abuse for allegedly using his mother to panhandle for money.

The man, 49-year-old David Chay, was recently confronted by a concerned citizen outside the UC Irvine Town Center mall.

That concerned citizen posted a video of the confrontation to YouTube.

“There’s the potential that there’s a law being broken based on the panhandling or possibly trespassing,” said Irvine police Lt. Julie Engen.

“But nobody is pursuing that,” she added.

“As far as what’s occurring between the man and the woman depicted in the video, that matter is under investigation.”

Irvine police say they began looking at Chay almost immediately after the video was posted last month.

Chay allegedly has his mother sit in front of stores asking for money for four to six hours at a time.

The video, in fact, was shot at 2 a.m., as the son picked up his mother and her earnings in his Prius.

But investigators say that the mom, apparently, is a willing participant, and that, while it’s distasteful, it’s just a minor misdemeanor.

“There is a municipal code against conducting business without a license, so any solicitation of money without a license could be considered illegal,” Engen said.

“However, that is not our primary concern in a case like this,” she added.

The primary concern is that Chay might be forcing his mother to panhandle and/or mentally abusing her, and authorities are checking into that.

“If she says I don’t want to go anywhere, I’m happy here, I have a place to live… there’s not much we can do,” said Carol Mitchell of Orange County Adult Services.

“We see this a lot, where elderly people have a son or daughter or other relative taking care of them, and they really don’t want anybody else.”

KTLA spoke to Mrs. Soon Wah Chay late Thursday night. She said she was evicted form her home last year and must panhandle to survive.


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  • Previous student

    I used to go to school at UCI, and I'd see this old lady asking for money. The son drove her in a Toyota Prius (she was not homeless!). This has been going on for years, and I am disappointed to know it was still happening recently. She first started sitting in the middle of the UTC plaza either in 2009 or 2010. Her exact words, "Could you spare some change?". Sometimes she claimed she was hungry. Never did she look dirty or unhygienic. On occasion, the son wheeled her into Lee's Sandwiches to use their restroom.

    Before, she was hanging around the Jack in the Box in that same shopping plaza, and since when I do not know, but I remember seeing her there and hearing of her being around Jack in the Box asking for money perhaps as early as 2007. I am glad someone took action. This has been going on for so long. Who knows what else this son has done to this poor lady, or how much money they have been taking from jobless college students!

  • Carol

    If they investigate this incident, they may discover that the woman probably doesn't even need a wheelchair… is probably all part of the scam. People that "ask for help", beg for money, panhandle, etc., generally take in no less than $100 a day, and most take in much more. In our town, an individual was claiming to be homeless, yet at the end of his day begging for "anything would help"…….he would walk a few blocks, get in his car, and drive home !! This Asian "elderly" woman just might be a willing partner in what could be a scam. Our Country has lots of Shelters, Food missions, Welfare, etc. etc., and yet these people go out and prey on the sympathy of concerned citizens ??? Quit giving hand-outs, and believe me, these people will eventually disappear.

    • Sam

      I was in Shanghai a few years ago and there were many people begging in the park. Several were laying on litters, looking like they were about to die. A police car pulled up and said something over his PA, these "dying" people jumped up and sprinted away. If you feel you must help people out, first; support your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry, second; carry cheese and crackers and bottled water in your car, these are perfect for those people begging at intersections.

  • Concerned

    Umm, DISTASTEFUL! How just plain WRONG! How could any child allow their mother to go out in the cold, dangerous streets to beg for money? HOW! And a Prius, even used it not some old clunker Ford Escort either. If the law does not take care of him, perhaps God has a special place for vermin like this.

  • John

    It makes me sad that people do this. You'd be surprised to how many of those panhandlers are not in need… It's not okay to panhandle, we can all report them, and it will be stopped. If you want to contribute donate to a local food bank or food kitchen better yet hand out a bottle of water and a snack, just not cash!

  • oldUSAwasgood

    We can see what is happening to our country with all this illegal activity and Scams….take action in your area. meet your neighbors , find out who you are living next to or who you work with… may shock you as to the reality.

  • backatya

    Legislatures? Where are you when we need you, such as this situation? I don't care if she's a willing participant, 2 a.m.? What the heck? Prius? If you're lying to the public about what money you have but you claim you don't have, that's FRAUD. That's like people who set up these organizations in disaster situations and rob people of money. This man is driving a Prius, having his mother lie that they need money – sell his Prius? Get disability for his mother. But to defraud the public is pure FRAUD, it's not a 9 to 2 am job!

  • PO'd

    THIS human GARBAGE of a son should be thoroughly investigated. Being that the elderly lady is of Asian descent, she is very likely taking the abuse in private and covering for the so called Son. She is probably thinking I'd rather be abused than see my son in Jail.


    if they cant get him for abuse, they could definitely GET HIM FOR UNCLAIMED TAXES. this POS "son" has to pay for his actions! who on earth would send their mother to do these kinds of things?!

  • CTS

    This guy shops at my work! No wonder he would always pay in ones. He was a strange guy. He would always talk about how the government is watching us and tapping our phones and just plain paranoid about our government & political leaders. We called him chicken man since he only bought 2 organic chickens each visit. People would get so annoyed because he would hold up the line going on his rants about our government. Straight up weirdo..