MISHAWAKA — The St. Joseph County prosecutor's office has filed charges against a man accused of approaching women and asking for money outside stores in Mishawaka.
John Hertel, 50, was charged with two counts of panhandling, each a Class C misdemeanor, according to a press release from the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's office.
A summons was issued for Hertel to appear at a hearing April 10. The charging information alleges that on Jan. 22, Hertel approached a woman in a parking lot near Hobby Lobby, 5514 Grape Road, Mishawaka, and asked for money as she got out of her car.
According to the probable cause affidavit for his arrest, Hertel told the woman he was 200 miles away from home and that he needed gas money to get home. The woman told police that while Hertel asked for money, she felt uncomfortable and scared.
The woman said Hertel had blocked her in and that she had to close his truck door to get by him and enter the store. She said Hertel continued to talk to her by asking if she would look inside his car because it was making a noise.
The woman entered the store, and once inside, she saw the truck drive away a few minutes later. She later got an escort on her way back to her car.
Hertel was arrested in St. Joseph County and brought to the Elkhart County Jail on Jan. 29 for failing to report to work release in July 2013, according to court files. He was released Feb. 10.
On March 6, Hertel allegedly asked an off-duty police officer's family for money in the parking lot of T.G.I. Friday's on North Grape Road.
According to the affidavit, Hertel waved at the officer's wife, who was driving, and made her roll down her window. Hertel said his vehicle had broken down and he put $200 into getting it running. He also said he was 200 miles away from home and needed gas money.
The officer, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, looked over at Hertel and recognized him. The officer's wife drove away while he called dispatch. But by the time officers arrived on scene Hertel had already left the parking lot.
Hertel had been previously charged with panhandling in 2006. The charge was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of cocaine.