Hard to believe, but there are grifters and scam artists at Zuccotti Park.
This is one sweet swindle.
Two booze-swilling grifters raked in as much as $200 a day at the Occupy Wall Street protest by taking turns holding the same handwritten sign that read, “Diabetic . . . Need donations for juice and other supplies . . . Please help me . . . My meds are expensive.”
“Stop taking pictures! Stop taking pictures!” one snarled before folding up the cardboard sign and skulking away.
Legitimate protesters called the con one of many scams turning squalid Zuccotti Park into a beggar’s banquet and said the number of panhandlers hassling passers-by for cash has skyrocketed in the past few days.
Some of the panhandlers themselves admit they spend their profits on food and booze instead of “the movement.”
“You walk through and every camp has a bucket. They use the money for anything,” admitted Army vet Patrick Koller, 24, who is a panhandler himself.
He asks for cash donations at the park’s “dog station” for food and veterinary care for protesters’ pets — but he confessed to shaving a generous share off the top of the up to $150 a day he takes in.
“I take about 25 percent and put it in my pocket and buy food, water, et cetera. The rest goes to the dog station,” he said.
Another panhandler said he’s seen colleagues keep the cash for themselves, but he insisted his own panhandling operation was for the good of the park.
“You got a lot of people out here pocketing this money,” said Bernard Patrick, 36, of Louisiana. “But I’m not. I tell them it goes to the movement.”
Actual protesters say they’re at their wits’ end.
“I tell them, ‘Hey, there’s free food, cigarettes, blankets, medical. Why do you need money?’ ” fumed protester, Michael Rodriguez, 24, of The Bronx.
“Unless you’re collecting donations for a working group, I don’t want to see it.”