Tonight, I am writing out of anger and disbelief.
Here’s what happened.
This afternoon, I received an e-mail from the Pastor of my church, expressing his desire to help a family in desperate need. As I read the e-mail, I cried real tears, and my heart was aching for this family – moreso, for the baby and child involved. I mean….they’re helpless children!
The father, a man in his 30’s, approached the Pastor as he was eating lunch at a local diner with his dad. He didn’t know he was a Pastor, and didn’t know he would rally so much help together for him and his family. They talked for a while, and the Pastor found that he is a man of God that had fallen on hard times.
As his story went, he had lost his job working as an Assistant Manager at a local mechanic shop, because he had to have emergency surgery to repair a collapsed lung due to a medical condition. After he was done recovering, he found he no longer had work. His wife, 8 month old baby and 3 year old toddler, along with himself, were displaced and were now homeless and living in the woods. They had no food, no tent, no water. They had nothing.
Now, whenever I hear about a baby or a child having to be without anything – especially basic necessities – I will do anything humanly possible to get that child whatever they might need. When I heard there were two tiny, innocent babies in the woods, in Florida, without any basic necessities – especially that the baby was without formula and was starving…I sprang to action, wiped the tears off my face and began running around my house finding things to bring to help this family.
I gathered baby food, blankets, baby clothes, diapers, water, baby wipes, a pair of sneakers for the mama, laundry soap, canned food with pull tops, crackers, and I was going to buy formula and get the 3 year old some clothes at the thrift store tomorrow. I was all in. I was really invested in this.
I had posted calls to action on my social media channels, imploring people to donate anything they could to the love offering the pastor was taking at the church to help them secure a roof over their heads. I called and texted friends and family asking them to help. I was even going go create a fundraiser in this familys name.
And then? I found out the entire thing was a scam.
Yes. A big fat lie. All of it. His entire story. Fabricated.
This man has been doing this for years. He goes by the name ‘Tony Dee’ and has been scamming people out of money for a while now. He apparently doesn’t have a family, and only wants money to pay for a drug habit. He never worked at the mechanic shop he claimed he was an Assistant Manager at. He was riding a brand new 5-6 hundred dollar bicycle that he could have sold to get money for his family, and reeked of cigarettes that he would rather pay for than provide formula for his baby. Also, he supposedly just had surgery to repair a collapsed lung…yet he was smoking? He never actually showed anyone his family, only a picture of a woman and two children. He wasn’t willing to comply with the Pastor’s wishes, either, which raised some red flags.
The fact that he is a fraud was confirmed by some people very close to me, who checked into who he was by verifying some information with a church he used to receive help from. They know him well. They spilled everything.
A good friend of mine met him last week. He gave her the same story. She bought him groceries and even bought two cases of formula for the baby. She asked him to wait at Home Depot while she ran to Walmart and bought him the groceries. When she came back, he was gone. He wanted her money.
He met my husband’s best friend outside that same Home Depot last week. He gave him the same story, except the ages of the children were different. He wanted his money, not his help.
He has been preying on kindness, good will and giving hearts for years and getting away with it.
I never condone violence, but I promise…if he ever approaches me while I’m out at a store, I just might contemplate punching him in the face. I think attacking him with words would be far more effective, though. I hope he does approach me. I really do. Because I want to make him very aware of how upset he made me. And how people like him are why good people who really need help, can’t get any.
I became emotionally invested in helping his non-existent family. So did the Pastor. So did others. And he deserves to pay for what he is doing.
So, my question is this: Who does that??
What kind of a sick, twisted individual fabricates such an incredibly detailed story for monetary gain to pay for their drug habits? What kind of person preys on the love and compassion others are offering out of the kindness of their hearts?
I know God will take care of the situation. I have full confidence that one way or another, he will face the music. But right now, I’m angry.
But, on the flip side, I won’t let this harden me to the world. I won’t let it deter me from my mission to be the light, hands, and feet of Jesus and to spread love and kindness wherever I can. He is but one rotten apple in a barrel. I am angry, but I’ll get over it.
Like I told the Pastor tonight: if nothing else, at least there really isn’t a woman with two babies sitting in the woods like we all were made to believe. At least there are no babies starving and going hungry right now – at least in this case there isn’t. And if nothing else, at least we can thank God above for that.
I learned tonight that I need to have discernment in situations like this. My heart tends to think before my head. I will be the first one in line to help someone in need – but I need to make sure it’s legit from now on before I get too involved. I feel stupid, but at the same time, I know my heart was in the right place.
Ah, well. We live, and we learn.