Melissa watched with curiosity as a seemingly brand new car stopped for a pregnant beggar at her local grocery store. As the beggar walked across the lot towards the man in the car, a million questions raced through Melissa’s head. Who was the man? Did they know each other? What was he doing stopping for a random pregnant beggar? Was the woman really a pitiful, child-bearing beggar? Melissa was about to find out…
Melissa Smith is a resident of San Diego, California who always shopped and ran her errands at her favorite local shopping plaza, the East Lake Village Center. She knows the ins and outs of the place and recognizes a handful of faces of the plaza’s staff and other frequent customers. But aside from the people at the plaza, there was also another face that became a regular sight for Melissa to see…
A poor family
There was a woman who looked like she was about in her late 20s, pregnant, trudging with a little boy on one hand and a sign asking for money on the other. The sad family ensemble frequents the shopping center every weekend, with the mother always on the lookout for people with a pocketful of change hoping they can be given some spare. After a few weeks of sighting the woman at the center, Melissa began to feel suspicious about the poor family. Why did she feel like something was off about them?
Con artistry as a business
In a land of opportunity, of course, there would be people who wouldn’t mind taking advantage of others for their own personal gain. To Melissa’s knowledge, there are a lot of people who live like that in SoCal and one of the most common modus in the streets was con artistry. Melissa couldn’t shake off her suspicions about the woman because she believes that there is a possibility she just might be a con artist pawning off on innocent people with big hearts ready to offer monetary help. A sketchy man who shows up every now and then also adds up to her heightening suspicions…
For two months, the woman religiously stood by the parking lot of the East Lake Village Center asking customers and passers-by alike for money. And because of her gut feeling that grows uneasier each week, Melissa began to pay closer attention to the woman and that’s when she noticed that a strange man dropped by with them on the site every now and then. She couldn’t see the man’s face clearly but based on their actions, she assumed that the strange man was the beggar’s husband.
Looking at their situation, Melissa couldn’t help but still feel pity for the woman. She had a young kid to look after, barely making ends meet, and another baby on the way. Her heart breaks a little when she sees them standing for hours under the scorching California sun and not drinking a sip of water all throughout the day. It’s a lucky day for them if a customer or two offer them not just money but also food. But despite feeling sorry for them, Melissa still couldn’t set aside her gut feeling about the woman and lucky for her, the day finally came to take her closer to the answers…
Luck on Melissa’s side
One day, Melissa went out of her routine and went to the shopping complex ahead of her usual time and stopped by at a gas station before heading to the parking lot. As she was waiting, she noticed that that the woman and the little boy weren’t in their usual spot so she looked around and spotted them at the other side of the complex. What she saw next took Melissa’s curiosity and confusion to a whole new level.
A car backed up to where the pregnant beggar and her young son were. Melissa looked from a distance and wondered why all of a sudden a car stopped in front of the two. What surprised her, even more, was that the woman and her kid got in the car and settled themselves inside just like it’s the most normal thing to do after a day’s work of begging on the streets. Melissa couldn’t believe her eyes especially after noticing what kind of car the beggar family just hopped onto.
The woman and her kid just got inside a $35,000 Mercedez Benz!
The woman and the little boy squeezed into the passenger’s seat of what seemed to be a fairly brand new Mercedez Benz; the kind of car no ordinary low-wage employee, much less a homeless beggar, can afford. When the car moved further down the lot, Melissa was able to see the driver more clearly: it was the same strange man who also asked for alms every now and then! Melissa’s blood boiled as everything in her head start to make sense, but she can’t be so sure yet, there must be an explanation behind all this…so she hurriedly got into her car and followed the sketchy family.
Caught in the act
Melissa witnessed the woman take out the money she collected for the day from the East Lake Shopping Center and count it in her hands. The three-piece looked happy and laughed together all cramped in the front seats of an expensive luxury car. Melissa felt sick at this sight so she decided to record the whole thing on her phone. She had to let the residents of East Lake know the truth about the woman they pitied.
Melissa continued to follow the family until they made a turn and stopped at another shopping center. Everyone seemed to be well-oriented in their plan as they brush up their pitiful looks, get out of the Benz, ready to fool some more people. “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,” Melissa explained. Melissa felt betrayed and angry which led her to a risky situation…
Causing a scene
Feeling betrayed and played by this group of liars, Melissa became fearless and marched right up to where the woman set up her little show. She took out her phone and blatantly took photos of the woman and her activities. Seeing this, the pregnant beggar got shaken and acted out in self-defense. “Next thing I know, she picked up this big boulder,” Melissa said, “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.” When the beggar noticed other local shoppers witness the scene, she took her little kid by the hand and started to run! But no matter how fast they run, Melissa thought of another way to get way ahead of them…
Let the news go viral
Melissa was very persistent in seeing the whole thing through so she posted the photos and videos she took on social media immediately after their confrontation. She won’t just let this pass, she had to let her fellow residents know that their good deeds and acts of kindness went to undeserving people. The video easily went viral and eventually caught local media’s attention, now Melissa isn’t the only one looking for the couple. And the chase for the notorious culprits began…
With the help of different news outlets locally and online, dozens of people start searching for the couple. They got as close to finding out where they lived, but only to find out they were just days late because they already moved out. News authorities wanted to get every detail they could possibly get and reveal the identity of the criminals, especially one particularly eager journalist…
After days of chasing down the couple’s whereabouts, a witness called in and tipped that she might have seen the woman in the video at a different shopping center. The eager journalist, Emily, fled straight to the scene to see for herself. Will she catch the woman this time?
Emily got to the location tipped by the witness and scoured the whole shopping center from back to front looking for the woman who fit Melissa’s description and video. She encountered two pregnant women who seemed to match some of Melissa’s description, but she knows they weren’t the one she was looking for. Then she saw a woman from a distance, there was a little boy beside her, her leggings, sandals, and hair all matched Melissa’s descriptions and video, but there was one important detail missing about her…
Missing baby bump
The pregnant panhandler was not pregnant anymore…how did that happen?
When Emily spotted the woman, she thought she finally found who she was looking for, but she hesitated a little because she noticed that although the woman matched everything in Melissa’s description, this woman in front of her wasn’t pregnant, but instead holding a newborn baby in her arms. How could she have given birth already? It was just days since she was last spotted with her baby bump. Hesitating will get Emily nowhere so she did what she was trained to do…
Emily followed her journalist instincts and stepped closer to the woman, took her phone out, and showed the woman Melissa’s video. “Is this you, begging?” Emily asked the woman, pointing the microphone towards her face, ready to record the answer she has been waiting for. “I don’ speak English,” the woman whispered. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a man appeared on the scene, interrupting Emily’s big news story…
Realizing that they were so close to getting caught and surrounded by camera crews, the husband and wife broke into a sudden sprint down the street. Emily and her crew were quick to rise into action and continued rolling the cameras as they followed the family and watched as they piled up into a minivan. Upon seeing their reactions, Emily was so sure that the two were guilty, the only remaining question is, are they alone in this business?
As news about this pregnant panhandler continued to spin out, police started to get involved. And what they uncovered was quite a shock for everyone. Turns out, the woman and her partner were working for a big scamming corporation that has been operating illegally in the United States for years. People from different countries around the world are brought to America to pretend to be homeless, pitiful, and helpless people begging innocent people for their hard-earned money.