Registered sex offender claims he’s collecting door to door for Richfield Fire Department

RICHFIELD, Ohio-- Police are investigating a man who they say started going door to door earlier this month, telling homeowners he was soliciting contributions for the Richfield Fire Department.

Residents helped police identify the man as Gary P. Thomas, 48. He is listed as a non-compliant sex offender in Summit County and is already faces charges for doing the same thing in Medina County.

Richfield police said Thomas asked for a $25 contribution, in exchange residents would get a green reflective sign to help identify their address.

But Richfield Fire Department Lt. Bob Jones said he was not representing them.

"The worst thing is he is out there representing the Richfield Fire Department on behalf of us, which he is not. We are not soliciting funds from anybody at this point in time. We don't go door to door. We don't ask for funds in that direction," Jones said.

Police said he was arrested last month by Medina County and Copley authorities on charges of impersonating an officer and theft for doing the same thing in Sharon Township.

"He's doing basically what he had done in other communities," said Richfield Police Lt. Joe Davis.

Davis said Thomas was leaving residents a business card with the name "Wood" Thomas,  saying he was representing the "American Fire and Security."

While there is a company in the Dayton area with the same name, police here said the agency Thomas claimed to represent does not appear to exist and the money was never making it to any of the fire departments.

FOX 8 News reached Thomas by phone calling the number on his business card.

Thomas told us he is running a not-for-profit organization and feels indebted to fire fighters.

"I am paying it forward because my grandmother was rescued by the fire department and so I'm just indebted to help out a little bit. So what I do is I buy the green signs. I put numbers on them for whoever wants them, who calls me. I screw them to the mailbox post just in case there's an emergency," Thomas said.

Thomas admitted that he is facing charges for the solicitation in Sharon Township and that he was soliciting in Richfield without a permit.

He said he was not trying to misrepresent himself as being connected in any way to the fire departments.

"I'm not trying to steal from anybody. It's all non-profit and I don't make anything. Like I said I buy all the signs, I buy all the numbers and I drive around and I do all the work, I screw it to the mailbox and I ask for a $25 donation and that goes to the fire department of whichever township county I am in," he insisted.

Thomas told Fox 8 he has sent a $15 check to the Richfield Fire Department. But investigators in Richfield want to hear from anyone who gave him money.

"The concerning part is you have to at least in the back of your mind question, 'Is there an ulterior motive for this individual going door to door?'" Davis said.