4:33 PM PST, December 31, 2009
Desiree Ramirez noticed the collection box while shopping at a Vallarta Supermarket along Palmdale Boulevard on Monday.
She told the store manager that the pictures on the box were that of her two daughters who were very much alive.
Ramirez was told a man identifying himself as Joel Perez asked permission to leave the boxes at the store in an effort to raise money for the funeral of his two nieces, according to Deputy Omar Chavez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Supermarket employees arranged for the man to come pick up the donated money, which amounted to $437, Chavez said.
The suspect, Saul Lopez, of Palmdale, showed up and was arrested on Tuesday, according to Chavez.
Sheriff's officials say a second box had been set up at the nearby Mi Ranchito restaurant.
Lopez said he needed money and thought up the scam when he found a photo of the girls on the street.
He is being held on nearly $186,000 bail. Officials say Lopez faces several theft-related charges, including possible grand theft.
Anyone who placed donations in either of the boxes can call the Palmdale sheriff's station at (661) 272-2442.