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      Burning cross found on yard of man accused of posing as social worker

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Officials in Columbia say a possible hate crime likely directed towards the man accused of posing as a social worker earlier this month has been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

      The Columbia Police Department and Richland/Columbia Fire Department was called to 2727 Gervais Street early Friday morning for a report of a burning cross. The cross was found smoldering in the yard when they arrived. The homeowner's son says a brick with a racially charged note attached was also thrown through the window of the home.

      According to officials, the home belongs to 45-year-old Mitchell Smith, who was charged with posing as social worker by taking control of the victims' money, food and identification. Smith was arrested last weekend.

      "He's getting accused of helping some guys around the corner. He would give the shirt off his back and that is how he has always been," said Mitchell Smith Jr.

      Seven adults were placed into emergency protective custody with the Department of Social Services as a result. Two of them were military veterans.

      Smith Jr. says his dad is a legitimate social worker with more than 20 years of experience. His father is currently out on a $100,000 bond.