Saleswomen charged with unlicensed soliciting in Fairview Heights

From left to right: Kassi Hampton, Amber Binderup, and Jordan Elrad
From left to right: Kassi Hampton, Amber Binderup, and Jordan Elrad

Three people face charges of soliciting without a license after Fairview Heights police received complaints about Direct Energy salespeople knocking on doors.

On Tuesday, an anonymous caller reported three people soliciting for Direct Energy in the city. Direct Energy is an energy retailer out of Houston.

Three women were arrested in the 900 block of Salem Place and were charged with violation of a city ordinance: Kassi Hampton, 19; Amber Binderup, 26; and Jordan Elrad, 35. Hampton also had an outstanding warrant on a charge of felony theft from Jefferson County, Missouri.

“We have very little tolerance for unlicensed soliciting in Fairview Heights,” said Police Chief Nick Gallius. “Now that spring has arrived, solicitors will become more common. Any solicitor is required to carry their city-issued permit with them and present to a resident on demand.”

Last year, the license for a solicitor for Direct Energy was revoked for allegedly allowing another individual to use his permit. In 2016, Fairview Heights revoked the licenses for all four solicitors working for Liberty Power Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after nine complaints in less than a month. Residents reported aggressive tactics and misrepresentation, according to the letter Fairview Heights sent to Liberty Power.

Mayor Mark Kupsky said the city had tightened its solicitation permit ordinances after the problems they have had with some energy retailers. In one case, he said, a solicitor came to his door and pretended to be from the city.

Kassi Hampton, 19, of St. Louis. Provided

“They were telling residents they had to sign up or lose their electric service,” Kupsky said. “I was polite … He didn’t know who I was.”

Kupsky said he asked the solicitor for his permit, and when the man produced a document that was not from the city, Kupsky informed him he needed a solicitation license to sell door-to-door in Fairview Heights.

Kupsky said the man replied, “I can do anything I want.” That’s when Kupsky showed him his mayoral identification, and informed him he needed to go get a license before knocking on any more doors.

Jordan Elrad, 35, of St. Louis. Provided

“He said 'OK,' and then he immediately went to my neighbor — who’s an alderman,” Kupsky said.

Gallius said if anyone is approached by a solicitor without a permit, they should call the police department for an investigation. Solicitors must prominently wear their city-issued identification while soliciting, and may not knock on your door if you have a “do not solicit” sign on or near the front door. Soliciting after dark is prohibited.

What isn’t covered by the permits? Anyone advocating on the basis of religious or political belief, canvassing for polls, distributing handbills, children conducting fundraisers or offering services such as cutting grass, and charitable organizations, according to Gailius.

Amber Binderup, 26, of St. Louis. Provided

Residents also can register with Fairview Heights police to have their addresses placed on a “do not solicit” registry, which is in the process of being set up, Gailius said. While the registry is being developed, residents can email or call 618-489-2158 to be added to the list.

“Do not be intimidated or pressured into signing or agreeing to anything that makes you uncomfortable,” Gailius said. “Take time to research the business or the product. If you feel uncomfortable dealing with a solicitor, please call the police, even if the solicitor has a permit.”

Binderup and Elrad posted bail and have been released. Hampton remained in custody Wednesday at the St. Clair County Jail, awaiting extradition to Missouri.

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Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald