By Kathy Jefcoats
An Atlanta man accused of posing as a firefighter to collect money was in Henry County Magistrate Court Friday morning.
Kennedy Kwame Afari, 41, of Murphy Avenue told Chief Magistrate Judy Hayes that he needed to reschedule his preliminary hearing.
"I need time to hire my attorney, Joseph Shaw," said Afari.
Hayes told him and Henry police Detective Whitney Vaughn to return to court April 5.
"Bring your lawyer with you," Hayes told Afari.
In addition to Vaughn, several Henry County firefighters also attended the hearing. The fire department has declined to comment on the case although fire officials worked jointly with police in making the arrest.
Afari faces two counts of soliciting funds unlawfully and one each of impersonating a public officer or employee and theft by deception.
Henry County police Lt. Ken Turner said Afari targeted foreign-owned businesses, probably because of the language barrier and because owners are typically "public safety friendly." His alleged scheme included dressing in a firefighter's uniform with generic fire department patches and a walkie talkie on his belt.
Turner said Afari is accused of soliciting money for burn victims and to promote fire and safety plans. No one else is suspected of being involved, he said, but the investigation shows Afari may have operated this scheme in Henry, Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties.
Afari made a $2,700 bond around 10 p.m. Wednesday, hours after his arrest. If convicted on all charges, Afari faces more than 15 years in prison and more than $11,000 in fines.
Turner said anyone with information about this case should contact his or her local law enforcement agency.
charged with theft
A Hampton man charged with stealing $750 in used oil and caught the attention of federal investigators in the process told a Henry magistrate he just wanted to plead guilty Friday morning.
Michael Leonard Barnes, 42, of Lakeside Villa Drive was arrested for felony theft by taking Thursday. He made a $1,500 bond and was released.
Barnes was in Henry Chief Magistrate Judy Hayes' courtroom Friday morning for a preliminary hearing. Henry County police Detective Mike Hardy also attended to present the case.
Barnes, who was not represented by counsel, appeared confused about the proceedings.
"I just want to plead guilty," Barnes told Hayes.
However, Magistrate Court is not the proper venue for the case, which is a felony. Hayes bound over the case to Superior Court for possible presentment to the grand jury.
Henry County police said investigators with U.S. Homeland Security are also interested in Barnes, although it is not known to what extent.