By Tamas Mondovics

Brandon area panhandlers carrying sings that read something along the lines of, “Homeless, Need Help, Thanks and God Bless,” are not uncommon and may understandably pull the heart strings of some passing motorists.

However, the fact that things are not always what they seem became quite clear recently, when Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office District 2 Community Resource Deputies came across James Edward Williams Jr., in the area of  Gornto Lake Road and Causeway Blvd in Brandon.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the deputies conducted proactive patrols in the area, in response to a number of complaints into persons interrupting traffic as they panhandle for money.
Upon coming in contact with Williams Jr. deputies first learned that he had outstanding warrants for Violation of Probation for several narcotics related offenses and was then taken into custody without incident.

Williams, however, had a bit more to share. Deputies said that their panhandler was also carrying, a Cobra .32 cal. handgun, along with ammunition, as well as a marijuana packaged in for sale and/or distribution with an estimated street value of $1,000.

But, there was more. Williams was also in possession of several credit cards and identification cards belonging to other people. Detectives are following up on the credit and identification cards to determine how they were obtained.

Williams is now off the street, charged with: Possession of Cannabis, Controlled Substance within 1,000 feet of Convenience, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Felon in Possession of a Firearm (2 counts) and Violation of Probation (2 counts). While discussion about the legality of the practice, in 2011 commissioners voted 6-1 to ban panhandling on county and state roads throughout Hillsborough County. For info, please visit

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