Woman to Woman
She just couldn’t keep her eyes off this heavily pregnant woman. It seemed like her worst nightmare. But something in her gut feeling was bugging her and she couldn’t shake it off… If she followed it through would she be made a fool of? A lot of thoughts were going through her mind. But then maybe she was just overthinking it all… But, then again, what if that woman is in danger? She decided to follow the woman and find out more. She had no idea about the web of lies she would uncover.
Just Another Regular Day
Just like any other day, Melissa Smith was doing work in San Diego, California, her hometown, running some errands locally, seeing the same friendly faces when she walks into the different stores. But there was someone else she also expected to see too. A young woman who had become part of the local scenery in a way, as she stood outside the shopping center, begging, with her young son and a bulging pregnant belly.
This time, she saw the young woman and her son begin to move to another spot. Since the poor woman had no option but to live on the street, Melissa thought, she must have just decided to move to a better spot to get more cash. In the daytime, she would usually just occupy a small space near the East Lake Village Center, a shopping complex with grocery stores, dentists, florists, jewelry stores, restaurants, salons, vintage stores, clothing departments, and sweet shops. People with a pocket full of change would be walking around all day long. The woman must know that people would come forward to help her with the money, especially when they would see the baby bump. But she couldn’t have known or even imagined that she had now caught someone’s eye; Melissa’s.
California is known for its impressive architecture, Hollywood, beautiful weather, national parks, yet next to all the wealth of California, sadly, it is also known for the high number of people who are homeless. But Melissa also knew there were a few hacks about too, and didn’t want to be fooled. She noticed the pregnant woman every time she would go shopping, she couldn’t help it; “It made me feel bad. There is a lady who is pregnant and also has a little boy who is down on her luck,” she explained.
Every time Melissa went shopping, she would see the pregnant woman standing in the sun for hours wearing stained clothes. Usually, she would be alone but sometimes a strange man was there to accompany her. Melissa thought he might be her husband. The shoppers would offer her sandwiches, drinks, and frequently some change, and she soon became a well-known face around the shopping center. The whole setup of a young pregnant woman with a young son definitely tugged at people’s heartstrings. On this day in particular, Melissa couldn’t shake off this gut feeling that something was up.
So Many Questions
Melissa felt sorry for the woman, no one wants to beg, she thought, she must be in a terrible situation. She was not just homeless but also had a family that she needs to feed. Every time Melissa went shopping, she would pass this woman. And this happened for a couple of months. Melissa thought that if the woman is begging out in the blazing sun, every day, while pregnant, she must be in dire need. But, Melissa felt this nagging doubt in her mind.
It seems that the beggar was experienced and had an idea on how to gain everyone’s attention. She knew that the situation that she was in would make everyone feel sorry, the storyline of a mother fighting for survival with her small son was just something people couldn’t ignore. Another effective method to make sure people noticed her was holding a cardboard sign saying “please help” written in bland ink and holding it right above the bump. People who didn’t feel sorry for her or her soon would feel sorry for her unborn child. Maybe the whole story was legit, but Melissa just had to make sure.
Melissa lived near to the shopping complex and she would often visit the center in the afternoons. On this day Melissa ran in to grab some things from the shops just before closing time but noticed the pregnant beggar was not in her spot. Melissa felt worried for her and just hoped that everything was fine with the woman, her son, and her bump. While she got back to her car, she noticed that she was running low on gas, so she decided to stop by the nearest gas station located across the road. As she pulled in to the gas station something caught her eye that spurred her into investigative mode immediately.
Melissa realized that the beggar woman was standing at one of the sides of the complex. She was trying to manage to get a little more money before finally getting back home. Suddenly, a vehicle came around the corner and started moving towards the beggar at full speed. There was a lot of questions going through Melissa’s mind. Who was the driver, was the pregnant lady in trouble? Where was her little son? She continued to observe, thinking of the woman’s safety, but she seemed to get into the nice car willingly.
Driver’s Identity Revealed
Melissa watched what was happening, and began feeling more and more confused. The man she had assumed to be the beggar’s partner was the one driving the vehicle. That in itself may not have been surprising, but the car that he drove was. He was driving a Mercedes Benz which is considered as a luxury brand and is known for expensive price tags and its high-quality leather interiors. Melissa felt adamant that she would take action. Surely, she had no idea that she was going to make it to the headlines.
Following The Car
She saw them all sitting in the beautiful Mercedez Benz and drive off together. To her surprise, the car was spotless and was an expensive model, as if it was a brand new vehicle, Without a second thought, Melissa got into her car and started following theirs. She made sure to record everything on her phone. When she was able to catch up with them, she saw that they were chatting and laughing in the car together. The little boy was in the front seat too. Melissa felt this was a con, and became full of anger and just didn’t want to let them get away with this. She knew that as a responsible person she should bring this to everyone’s attention. She had no idea what will come up next.
Caught in Action
Melissa continued following them for a bit longer, and was surprised when they stopped in front of a different shopping center, where the beggar and the boy came out of the car and started doing the same thing. She saw her sitting there with the board and the man drove away again. Melissa knew all this time that something was really wrong there. But she still had no idea how deep this whole mess went, and that the authorities would soon be involved.
Melissa was so angry to see what was happening that she took her phone out and started taking pictures of her and her son. Or was he even her son? But, they soon spotted her and were outraged and started yelling and screaming at her, they even threatened Melissa with rocks. Another lady who was passing by, observed what was happening and decided to call the cops. This made the beggar grab her son and she started to run from the scene. However, Melissa was not ready to give up on this one yet.
Working on the Truth
Melissa decided that she will not let the imposters just get away with it easily. She posted about them, along with their pictures, all over social media. But Melissa decided to take it a step further and contacted the local news station too. She wanted to make sure that all the local people would know about the beggar’s deception and stop more people from giving them money. The news station became curious and wanted to find if there was something more to this story. So, from Melissa’s photos and videos, they were able to capture the number plate and the car details. After researching, it was discovered that the car was registered to the name of a female but the address was still not disclosed. This was only the beginning of the story of these fake people.
All Over The News
It didn’t take long for the story to spread, and the interest of many local journalists had been captured who wanted to find out more. They were able to make sure that they traced the whereabouts of the woman in the photographs to Encinitas Heights Apartments. The rent of this apartment was as high as $2,500. As soon as the story started to spread, journalists from magazines, radio stations, and newspapers went to the address but returned without any answers. The lights did not turn on for days and no one entered or exited the apartment. Then something else happened; a new couple moved in and the couple who lived there previously had left during the night, without giving any notice. Melissa was feeling amazed by the kind of attention this story was getting.
The Viral Story
Melissa shared everything online and she made sure to post it along with the proof, in the form of photos and videos. Many journalists decided to contact her and collect more information and share stories themselves “I do not feel good to see what is happening. Please don’t give money to these people. They don’t need it. They are driving a Mercedes.” She pleaded. People were surprised to see that someone would use pregnancy and a small child to gather pity from others. A few days later, some journalists received a phone call that made them run towards the new news.
A young lady named Rebecca, while driving to one of the shopping centers, had heard the story of Panhandler. Soon she came across this woman that she recognized with the help of Melissa’s videos. She made sure to leave a comment under Melissa’s post immediately with a photograph as the proof. As soon as this news made way to investigative journalist, Emily Valdez, she gathered her team and started to move towards the shopping center. They wanted to make sure that they caught hold of the panhandler this time.
Valdez, following the tip, started to search for the woman in the shopping center. She checked around all the pregnant women present there but none of them were beggars. But, when she was finally able to track the woman from Melissa’s post, she was in a state of shock. Valdez was confident that the panhandler was pregnant. But, just within 2 days after Melissa had discovered the truth, she was in another shopping complex with her baby. But, Valdez did not let her stop from further investigation.
Interviewing the Beggar
The moment Valdez saw her she pointed the microphone towards her, and started asking questions like “Is this you, begging?”. Valdez took out her phone so that she would show Melissa’s video to her. The woman first stared at the phone and then at Valdez, she looked right at the camera and said: “I don’t speak English”. Her child holds her tight at the jumper. Next, when Valdez began to follow the beggar on the road, the same man showed up.
Facial Recognition Match
Valdez said, “Keep the camera rolling!” She was so not letting this story just vanish. The man tried to keep his family (we think his family!) away from the journalist but they were not in a mood to give up. They followed him to the streets and saw them hiding in a corner behind a van. By running facial recognition on the woman from the video and the one she met that day, she made sure that it is the same woman. It was an 80% match. Valden started to observe the woman’s partner. There was something wrong about his reaction which sparked her belief that there are more things that need to be discovered. Her prediction was right.
Stepping Towards More Clues
The man said something to Valdez in Spanish. However, he whispered to his partner in a different language. Valdez had no idea what he said, but she was in a position to do everything in her power to understand what he was trying to say. Later on, this comment will lead to exposing the truth that this family was trying to hide. Valdez made sure to download the footage, place the headphones over her head, and started hearing the recording. She made sure to hear the recording again and again. But she was not able to identify the language. She coincidently received a phone call from an expert at that time.
A retired detective, Leslie Albright came across the interview of Valdez with the suspects. She played a crucial role in the investigation of underground crime rings with the San Diego Police Department. After working for 25 years, she became a specialist. This story made Leslie think. She has surely heard the language before, but she was trying to figure out where. After a lot of thinking, she was able to recall. Leslie realized that this woman was not just an ordinary beggar and this story is more complicated than what it seems to be.
Valdez was not the only person searching for the beggar, but the rest of the people were also looking for the details. But no one knew that the scam was about to get exposed. This story was much bigger than what people had anticipated. In the past years, people started to notice problems with their community. California has been always considered as the city of lifestyles and hip culture, but there was one problem that was getting worse day by day and everyone would just keep on ignoring it. One user on Reddit wanted to expose it out but doing it was risky.
Leslie’s career was devoted towards catching the top-notch criminal. And beggars usually are not involved in any of these offenses. But the language spoken by a mysterious man made her think that there is more to this story. She saw the video again and was able to recognize the language. This man was speaking Romani and they used a common method to dismiss the media. What else was the beggar couple hiding from people?
Detective Leslie realized that the couple was a part of an organized crime group which she was investigating for years. This group started the ring right after they entered the US illegally. Sadly they would commit such crimes daily. The members of this group would live in expensive houses and owned lavish vehicles. They were scamming lots of people for a long. Leslie did share her conclusion with Valdez. The couple beggar that they were following was most probably just co-workers and bot a couple. And the pregnancy was also just a scam. There were more hidden facts about this story.
Escape From The Justice
It has been a long time that the authorities were trying to catch them and hold them up legally. But they were so smart that they would keep changing on their locations. As soon as someone would notice and catch on to them, they would just pack there bags and flee. Likewise, the beggar that Melissa had caught did the same thing. And just when it seems that everything was over and they can’t be spotted, one man came with some information about them. This surely will help the authorities find more about these perpetrators.
Whistleblower on Reddit
An unknown person came forward and revealed some information that had put his life in danger. Furthermore, he did share more information on Reddit, “I had a mutual friend with them who would tell me that they knew about them and that they are just a roaming pair of Con Artists whose families made their way into the country.” But, he did not stop there. He even revealed that the women that they spotted were forced to do this kind of thing. The man was afraid that his identity will be revealed through the profile and it would be a concern to his safety. What would happen if his identity gets revealed?
Bottom Of The Story
After all this, more information started to float around. It was further revealed that the woman would stuff her clothes with foam to pretend that she is pregnant. Because of that fake belly, she would easily turn $500. But there were a lot many others who were doing the same thing.
When it comes to such kind of rings, it is often the men who are leading the operations. They offer desperate women a place to live and food in return of work. The woman would be sent out every morning and would be collected in the evening. It is understood that the profit is not distributed on a fair basis. Those who run this scam would be living lavish lives and others would not.
Threatening Over Phone Calls
“They will use small children and babies in any manner they can. The children were not allowed to go to school because their future and job lies in the business of the family,” Leslie later revealed. These children usually don’t receive any kind of education and crime is the only thing that they would know. The anonymous user also pointed out how people must know that there is plenty of organization and service that would help people in need and especially for women and children. They are taking advantage of everyone by scamming them at the entrance of the parking lot. No one from them is reporting this ‘earned’ money and both of them are taking state and federal assistance against poverty. But soon after he started to get threatening phone calls. Before he would remove all the data and traces about himself from the internet, he had the last thing to add.
“They might try to do this scam again. There might be a different woman or location, in any case, call the cops. Make sure to let them know that they are the “the BMW scammers” so that they are properly identified and the state can make the proper deportation against such people. Don’t offer them any help or give money to any panhandler that you see.
The Reddit user’s warning was quite clear. Leslie’s former team, of course, is still working to find out who is running such kinds of operations. And let’s not just forget about Melissa. Without her curiosity, people would have never come to know about these kinds of scams. But one question still lingers in the mind that if police are not able to catch them then how all of this will be stopped?