In terms of giving to charity, many people prefer to give to causes that are near to their hearts. However, when they see a person begging on the street, the sight also pulls on their heartstrings, making them want to help that person too. Overall, this is great, but there are times when people on the street are not really who we think they are.
As she looked on, she was completely frozen on the spot. She tried to search her brain for any possible reasons, but only one thing became clear – she was made a fool! She could not believe her eyes: the panhandler was getting inside quite an expensive car. She understood what she had to do – follow and solve the mystery. However, she was not ready for the lies which she would uncover.
Melissa Smith is from San Diego, California. She was just going about her day, doing her routine, when she saw the panhandler again. However, Melissa thought something was strange, so she followed her instinct and decided to do some investigating of her own. While she was standing next to her car, she saw the beggar and her small son leave. However, what Melissa saw next spurred her into action.
East Lake Village Center
The beggar had a usual spot for herself not far from East Lake Village Center, a shopping plaza. There are many shops here from goodwill, restaurants, dentists, hairstylists, to retail. The pregnant panhandler knew for sure this place would have many people who would be willing to give some money to the needy. However, she did not expect that someone like Melissa Smith would be watching her.
In California, it is nothing new to see beggars and homeless people, but not all of them are truly hopeless and many people know that. Although Smith especially felt some apprehension for this pregnant beggar, she did not really entertain the thought every time she saw the woman on the same spot on the weekends. Smith explained, “I felt bad. There’s a pregnant lady with a little boy who is down on her luck.” What she did not know was that her instinct was right.
Many times, Smith saw the pregnant panhandler staying under the blazing heat of the sun to ask for some cash. However, the beggar was not always alone, and she was sometimes accompanied by her young son or the boy’s father. They would all stand on her spot and became pretty known in the area since pregnant beggars are not that common. The fact that she was pregnant tugged at people’s heartstrings, making them give more to her, but what did Smith find out about this panhandler?
Woman in Question
Until that day, Smith was not suspicious. For two months, she saw the same beggar on the same spot. Smith thought that the pregnant woman needed money. It would be extremely difficult for anyone, let alone someone pregnant, to stay out there for quite some time, especially under the scorching heat of the sun! However, Smith saw something which she knew she should not keep quiet about.
It seemed like the pregnant panhandler had mastered the art of begging since she had to tug at people’s heartstrings to get their money. She probably thought that a pregnant woman with her little boy begging for money would do the trick. She even made a cardboard sign with “Please Help” written on it. Needless to say, people felt bad for the pair and gave them money. Although Smith thought they would get busted soon, she had no idea at the time that she would become instrumental in exposing a larger scheme.
Smith lived near the shopping district, though it was the first time that she went there at that particular time. Usually, she would do her errands at the shopping center at mid-morning. On that day, after she finished at the East Lake Village Center, she drove to the gas station across it since she was running low on gas. As she was putting gas in her car, she saw something suspicious that started her investigation.
While filling up her gas tank, Smith saw the pregnant panhandler starting to move. Smith did not think this was strange because she thought the woman must have been pretty tired after being under the sun for a long time. Smith kept observing the beggar until she saw a car heading towards the woman. This made Smith much more interested and what happened next proved that her suspicions were right.
At first, Smith could not understand what was happening, but when she took a closer look, she saw the driver was the little boy’s father. However, she was even more surprised by the kind of car that he was driving, the famous luxury brand Mercedes Benz. No doubt everyone knows that these cars cost a fortune, so Smith wondered why beggars had such an expensive car. Without thinking twice, she followed them and what she found out next was headlines material.
According to Smith, the car looked new. Smith stated, “They were leaving, and I noticed they went into a Mercedes Benz. I thought, ‘Wow, a Mercedes Benz?’” She took out her phone and recorded the whole thing. “Lo and behold, they were in front of us. Here they are counting money, laughing. Their little boy is not in a car seat or a seat belt. He’s in the front seat with them,” she recalled. She saw all of this when she followed them in the Mercedes Benz and she had never felt this betrayed. Although she thought that everyone had to know about this, she did not know the extent of the family’s deception.
Smith kept following the car, which went to another shopping center close to the one where they came from. Everything seemed perfectly planned out, with the pregnant panhandler getting out of the car and once again making a fool of everyone when they reached this shopping district. Smith related, “She sits there with the sign. He goes (and) parks the Mercedes. They put up the sign and not less than five minutes; here she is getting money from all these people.” What she did not know was that the law would soon be investigating and uncovering a far more serious plot.
Enraged with Fury
Smith approached the panhandler and her little boy, and as she did this, she began taking photos. Upon seeing her, the pregnant beggar became instantly furious, started yelling at her and even picked up the rock that supported her sign. Smith said, “Next thing I know, she picked up this big boulder.” She added, “I don’t know if pregnant people can do that, but it was pretty big over her head and coming at me with this rock.” Fortunately, someone saw everything and phoned the authorities, but as soon as the beggar realized what was happening, she grabbed her son and ran away.
Smith contacted a news station and revealed everything on the internet, as well. She wanted to warn everybody about this grand plan devised by this deceitful beggar. The story caught the attention of the news station and they ran the car’s plate number. Surprisingly, the vehicle was registered under a woman’s name but the address was undisclosed. They were surprised to find out that others may have also been onto the same panhandler.
Reporters followed the lead and they discovered that the woman resided in Encinitas Heights Apartments, which is an apartment complex where residents have to pay $ 2,500 a month. The reporters knocked on the door several times, but nobody answered. After a couple more times, they were told that the said apartment had new residents and that the ones they were after had already packed up and left.
Since Smith was able to record everything on her phone, this mystery beggar attracted a lot of attention on social media and from the news. The story spread, and everybody soon learned about it. Smith explained, “I feel bad. Don’t give these people money. They don’t need it. They’re driving a Benz.” What they saw infuriated people, and then, the journalists received a call which spurred them into action.
Another witness named Rebecca saw the panhandler at another shopping center. Rebecca said she went to the shopping center, saw the beggar and recognized her. She called the reporters and a couple of minutes later, Emily Valdez, one of the reporters, arrived.
When Valdez got the call, she immediately rushed to the area and tried to look for the mystery beggar. To her surprise, she did not see a pregnant woman, but she saw a woman carrying a baby. However, Melisa Smith took the pictures just two days earlier. So, what happened?
“Is This You?”
Valdez and her crew went up to the woman and asked her, “Is this you, begging?” while showing her the photo of a pregnant panhandler on her phone. After looking at the photo for some time, the woman said she could not speak English. Interestingly, aside from holding a baby, this woman was also with a boy who looked suspiciously like the boy in the photo. While the crew was still questioning the woman, the boy’s father arrived.
He told the media people to go away before taking his family with him. The cameras caught them getting in a minivan. The news crew, however, were not discouraged and ran the photos of both women on a program for facial recognition, which showed an 80% match. Valdez thought the story is bigger than what people thought.
The man initially spoke in Spanish but switched to another language when talking to the female beggar. This small detail caused him to unknowingly blow his cover. Valdez replayed the video and noticed that he used a different language. She then sought the help of experts to get answers.
Leslie Albright, a recently retired detective, watched the news report by Valdez. Albright had worked for the San Diego Police Department as a detective for 25 years. Her specialization was underground crime rings. Something about this case caught her attention and suddenly, she realized that the female panhandler beggar was more than just some ordinary beggar.
Under the Exterior
The woman that made many people furious with what she did was going to be exposed, but the story did not simply end there. This case showed the area’s growing problem. Beneath the glittering and fancy façade of California was a really dark underbelly which was getting bigger. Despite the risks, a Redditor resolved to expose everything.
Leslie Albright had witnessed a lot of criminal activities during her time as a cop and as soon as she heard the man talk, she had a feeling that something was certainly wrong. When she listened to what the man was saying, she recognized the language he used. Albright realized that the beggar’s modus operandi perfectly matched others’ modus operandi she had seen before.
Albright said the couple was linked to a California crime ring. They had come to the country illegally and committed different crimes every day. They reportedly lived in an expensive apartment and had a lot of cars at their disposal. It is possible that the woman and the boy’s father were not a real couple and the “pregnancy” was just a tactic to tug at the heartstrings of people who passed by. However, the question is what other crimes were they involved in since this case seems to have more layers which needed to be uncovered.
Unfortunately, this specific crime group moves to different places a lot, which makes it extremely difficult for the police work to lock them down. If they feel that a person has caught on to their scheme, they move on to another location immediately. This is exactly what happened with the two suspects. However, someone who knew the two suspects gave information about them, which meant he endangered his own life.
A man who watched the video about the panhandler stepped up and posted on Reddit all the things he knew about the two suspects. He explained, “…I had a friend of a friend tell me that they knew them and that they’re just a hustling pair of Con Artists whose families conned their way into the country.” He added that he knew about the unpleasant past the woman had and that she began working for the organization when she was young. After he divulged these details, he deleted his Reddit account in fears of the underground crime organization finding out who he was and going after him.
The Bottom Rung
After further investigation, they found out that the woman in the pictures and video usually pretended to be pregnant to elicit pity from their unsuspecting victims. She is said to make over $500 in one day. Sadly, there may be other women like her in different parts of the country. The inner systems and operations of the crime organization are quite complicated, and some men head the entire organization from the top. Women are assured that they would be provided food and housing so that they could be dispatched in various parts across the country. The ways of begging that they use to deceive others enable them to maintain expensive lifestyles and keep them in lavish homes, but there is more to it.
In an interview, Albright said, “They’ll use the babies, children, anyway they can… the children will not go to school because their job and their future is the Family Business.” The Redditor who gave details on this whole organization added, “People should know, there’s PLENTY of service and organizations that exist to help people and ESPECIALLY for women with children. They’re taking advantage of them all as well as scamming people at the parking lot entrances. Neither of them is reporting the money they’re making from her begging and both are claiming poverty to get state and federal assistance.” Right after he blew the whistle, the Redditor started to get threatening phone calls. However, he wrote something else before he deleted his Reddit account.
The nameless informant wrote on Reddit: “They might be up and trying this scam again or it might be another woman, either way, call the cops on them, making sure to tell the dispatch that they’re “the BMW scammers” so they’re identified and the state can start the proper deportation proceedings against them… don’t help any of them or give money to any of the panhandlers you might see.” Currently, the authorities are still searching for this organization’s head. Since the story became viral, people have become more cautious when giving money to panhandlers. After all, we do not know if this Californian crime organization has other modus operandi up their sleeves.