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Summer not only brings hot weather and tourists, but in the past few years it also brings the Fake Monk Mafia to Boston. Having been pushed out of Faneuil Hall, the Fake Monks are making their way into the North End and waterfront areas. At the June 10th Neighborhood Council Meeting, members discussed what can be done to stop the Fake Monks from over stepping their bounds.

The dressed panhandlers, also referred to as the Fake Monk Mafia, go up to tourists and ask for money pretending to raise money for religious causes. I was approached by one for the first time earlier this Summer. It is awkward and uncomfortable to interact with a Fake Monk. In my situation, the old woman caught me off guard, slipped beads onto my hand, and gave me a card. I was aware of what was happening, so I attempted to return the beads and card back to the woman, but she insisted I keep them for two dollars. Eventually she took it back, but not after asking me for money several times. I walked away.

A warning to tourists not to give Fake Monks money. Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe.

President of the Council, John Pregmon, said, “The activity is bleeding into the North End with these individuals.” He stated that the Fake Monks have been seen in Christopher Columbus Park, on the Freedom Trail, Old North Church and the Prado (Paul Revere Mall). Pregmon wants to address the issue before they dominate the streets similar to the what happened at Faneuil Hall as they look for money.

According to Boston Police, the Fake Monks can legally panhandle as long as it is not aggressive harassment. Everyone has a right to free speech and even fake monks have religious freedom.

Fake monk on Atlantic Avenue (NEWF image)

Another Council member, Tania Green, suggested following a similar campaign that Faneuil Hall had rolled out with the posters. Her idea is to put posters up throughout the North End for tourists to see. She believes if the posters stay up for about a month that the tourists will be prepared with knowledge of the Fake Monks, driving them out of the neighborhood. Green said about the routine, “They’re very careful in how they do it, so we have to be careful as well. Obviously we can’t harass them back, but I think the real measure is to hit them where it hurts and take the money away.”

One concerned North End resident who attended the meeting suggested that a bigger issue to focus on was the level of homelessness in the North End. The resident stated that they believe it is an even bigger deterrent for tourists in the North End.

Watch the video above for the full discussion. What do you think about the Fake Monk Mafia? Have you ever been approached by a Fake Monk? Let us know in the comments below.

The next Neighborhood Council Meeting will be on September 11th, 2017 at the Nazzaro Center at 7 PM. There is no August meeting.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Chris. The North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council will roll out a plan in the next week or so. We are looking for the cooperation of business owners to place signs in their establishments. Thank you! Tania

  2. I’ve been approached by dozens of fake monks over the years. A polite “no thanks” always works. Meanwhile my toddler stumbled upon a hypodermic needle over the weekend at the Mirabella splash pad. Let’s focus on quality of life issues that matter.

    • Hi, Chris. Thank you for your reply. There is a range of issues that the council is looking to tackle, and we take each suggestion from the people in our neighborhood seriously. The issue of needles is always a serious matter and there are multiple city departments and community organizations working on it. As you know, the addiction epidemic is serious and complex. I will personally look into the issue at Mirabella and contact the right people. That’s very unfortunate and unsafe. On that note, there are many residents in the North End that are concerned and bothered by monks. We have to consider every issue and determine if we can make an impact. We do not want to diminish anyone’s feelings/concerns. Thank you.

    • Hi Chris. I wanted to let you know that I called the Mirabella Pool. They have a process where life guards are checking the grounds ever 15 minutes for dangers, including hypodermic needles. The life guard I spoke to said the life guards on duty check every 15 minutes and are instructed to call the Mayor’s Office if they find needles. The life guard I spoke with has said he has never heard of a complain of hypodermic needles. Did you report your incident to a life guard or manager on duty? This is absolutely an incident where if you see something, you should say something so the life guards can bring the request up the chain of command.

  3. I’ve been approached several times and just keep walking. There are always 2 women and 2 men in front of the Aquarium. A few weeks ago one woman handed beads to my 6 yr old daughter and with a quick response I told my daughter to give them back. The woman insisted she keep them and then I took them and gave them back. The woman started yelling, swearing and cursing at me as everyone turned their heads to look at her in disbelief. They are truly no good. They huddle in groups and then you see them disperse in different directions. I have prevented tourists from their scam many times by walking by and just shaking my head letting them know to just keep walking.
    Interrupting you as you walk and trying to force items in your hand should be considered a form of harassment especially when they start yelling at you when you refuse.

  4. A few weeks ago I encountered two tourists near the Black Rose and told then not to give the fake monk who was handing them beads any $ because he was a scammer. The female said “oh its OK, I feel sorry for him”
    On July 3, I encountered a member of the fake monk mafia on Hanover St near CVS. A tourist couple was about to give him $ until I walked over and yelled do not give him $ he is a scammer. Another guy from the neighborhood heard me and came back and told the couple the same thing. The man gave the fake monk back his beads and when the woman went to tale hers off to give them back the fake monk told her to keep them “no $”. When I came out of CVS 10 minutes later, the fake monk was not in sight. The tourists thanked us for telling them. Even if there are signs around, we should all make an effort to warn the tourists if we see them talking to a member of the Fake Monk Mafia.

  5. They remind me of the gypsy women 20 years ago on Washington Street giving a free flower, then asking for $1 to pay for it. They finally disappeared.

  6. What about the young people on the T trains that pass out individual kleenex packages WITH A NOTE and then come back 2 min. later for money for them?! On a train car, you are trapped until the next station! Very uncomfortable situation.

  7. Just the latest pan handle scam, there have been so many over the years. The biggest scams work the Financial District. I’ve had them ask for as much $20. There was the woman from Worchester who’d had her purse stollen and needed money for a train. She hit up up on enough that I recognized her. I think she recognises me now. Haven’t seen her since I saw her coming towards me near the Aquarium. I asked her as she approached, “Had that purse stollen again?”. She cursed at me and walked away. Never saw her again. As for the Monks, I take the card keep walking and chuckle. I’ll drop what they give me so they can have it back. They tell me I’m an A-hole, but I think they remember me.

  8. The guy pictured above came up to me like a month ago and grabbed my hand as I was walking with headphones on and put a bracelet on me and demanded I give him 50 dollars and got mad when I said no

  9. Just today I was approached by a fake monk, everything happened so fast and I could not tell what was happening . The lady was speaking very fast and not in English. First she handed us a gold coin type thing, then put bracelets on our wrists. She was very straight forward in asking for money. At the time we did not know it was a scam, so we gave her $10 because we just thought she was a crazy old lady. We then saw her go over to this lady across from her and she did not have any cash, the fake monk then took the bracelet off and walked away. These fake monks are now approaching groups of teenagers like me and my friends, and talking advantage of them. They need to be stoped.

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