Damien Preston-Booth is probably the smartest, most resourceful beggar in the world. Every week, the 37-year-old from Lancashire travels all the way to London’s Mayfair to accept donations from wealthy tourists – via credit card! He actually carries around a card reader to make sure he doesn’t miss out on contributions from rich people who don’t have cash on them.
Every Wednesday for the past five years, Booth has journeyed from his £300 a month rented apartment in Preston to London, where he pretends to be homeless, spending three days and nights sleeping rough and begging. He walks up to potential donors and tries appealing to their generosity. If they’re ready to contribute, he quickly whips out his mobile card reader that transfers all payments to his PayPal account. The reader is linked via Bluetooth to his smartphone, and the donor receives a receipt for his donation.
Booth has successfully managed to convert what is viewed as a rather ignoble occupation into a full-time profession. And he’s struck gold – a former friend claims that the man has earned thousands of pounds and even spent five or six holidays abroad in just one year! In fact, his Facebook page has pictures of him in Paris and Ibiza. Photographs in the media show him accepting payments from the likes of Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne.
“He is taking everyone for a ride and makes an absolute fortune,” the friend said. “He has befriended the super-rich at bars and restaurants. And if there’s a big party he’ll push through the photographers and ask celebrities for cash – he knows they won’t say no in front of the cameras. On New Year’s Eve, he made loads outside the Dorchester (hotel) where the Sultan of Brunei was having a party and people were throwing 50 and 20 pound notes at him.”
“That guy is really arrogant,” added Emil Staykov, chief porter of Lebanese restaurant Mamounia Lounge. “He asks our customers for money as they go in and then sleeps in the doorway. I have called the police on him loads of times and have been tempted just to throw him out myself. I knew he had money, he always has two phones.”
Concierge Karim Mouaj said: “He talks a little bit of loads of languages so he can speak to tourists. He knows Arabic, a little bit of Chinese. He has the gift of the gab. I am shocked he has a house and goes on holidays.”
He’s got a kind of Game…