Nashville area residents warn drivers of roadside scam

Published: Apr. 3, 2016 at 11:24 AM EDT
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Many in Davidson and Wilson Counties are warning drivers of a notorious panhandler known to deceive people by the interstate. Paul Aniel, 49, has been arrested 78 times since 2003. Most of those charges included solicitation.

Aniel was recently arrested for soliciting money from a woman after flagging her down on Briley Parkway and claiming to be out of gas.

The woman knew it was a scam after he tried to flag other vehicles while she was still there.

Metro police arrested Aniel for pedestrian solicitation ride or business. According to the affidavit, Aniel admitted to soliciting numerous drivers that day and should have gone home because he had enough money for rent.

The recent incident was one of the numerous cases within several years.

David Smith was one of the drivers this week who pulled over to a man he thought needed help.

“It’s a shame because there are a lot of people that need our help, and this makes people cynical,” Smith said.

Aniel apparently asked Smith to use his cell phone.

“He was frantically waving making the signal that he wanted to use the phone,” Smith recalled. “He begins to give a whole story that he’s a traveling salesman and needed money to get back to Knoxville.”

Robyn McIsaac also saw Aniel, but on Highway 109 in Lebanon Wednesday morning. She and numerous people flooded Facebook complaining about the suspect, all shared the same encounter.

“He looked sincere,” McIsaac said. “I didn’t have money, but he suggested that I drive to the ATM with him.”

Both McIsaac and Smith said Aniel claimed to be deaf. They knew it was a scam when he said police arrived but never helped, and that he wanted their home address to thank them with $1,000.

The encounters ended with Aniel reportedly cussing at them.

McIsaac's inclination to lend a hand will be met with a little more caution.

“I’ll still help people, but it makes me think twice,” McIsaac said.

Metro police said Aniel should be considered a habitual offender.