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Couple cited for panhandling collected thousands in cash, cards

Police in Modesto cited a Sacramento couple who they say used their children to panhandle thousands of dollars to send to family in Romania.

They reportedly claimed they are Gypsies who panhandle for a living.

According to a news release, officers following up on complaints of panhandlers in a parking lot at 3801 Pelandale Ave. found Marian Hornea, 27, holding a sign asking for help. His wife, Elena Hornea, 25, stood nearby with the couple’s 5- and 7-year-old children. The incident occurred the afternoon of Jan. 3.

The couple reportedly told police they use an organized list of spots in cities throughout the area to panhandle.

“Hornea said he uses his 5- and 7-year-old children to gain more sympathy from those passing by,” police said in a news release. This was roughly the 10th time the couple had stopped at the Pelandale lot.

In two hours, the couple collected $365.89, in addition to gift cards to several nearby restaurants.

Officers also found two money transfer receipts showing they had sent $2,000 and $1,700 to relatives in Romania.

Both Marian and Elena Hornea were cited and released for panhandling.

“The Modesto Police Department encourages you to please choose another way to give,” the news release states. “Many panhandlers in Modesto are struggling with substance abuse and are not homeless, while others may simply mislead you to give.

“Know where your money goes by donating to Modesto organizations that provide assistance, meals and shelter.”