When it comes to giving charity, most people like to give to causes that are near and dear to their hearts. But when they see a beggar on the street, it tends to pull on their heartstrings and make them want to help them out too. This is a great thing, overall, but at times, the people we see on the street aren’t who we think they are. We can never really be sure who we’re giving our money to.
The notion of homelessness is a growing issue in America. Each year the numbers are somewhat skyrocketing, an average of 550,000 people now find themselves without a roof over their heads, uncertainty of where their next meal is coming from, and the unsettling feeling of simply having nowhere to go, no warmth and no safety.
Each and every individual in the US come across this concept, this surreal truth of homelessness, however, many remain quiet and remain in denial. It is a hard pill to swallow and something the majority of individuals have no idea how to fix. The fact that we do not know how to help often leads to the action of simply being a bystander and letting it become a reality, accepting it as how the world simply is.
A Dark Secret
To be alone on the streets and at a disadvantage is terrible but the problem becomes even more terrible when one is pregnant. Being homeless, pregnant and now burdened with the uncertainty of how you will provide for a child. Not knowing what quality of life you will be able to offer this child. This woman was in dire need of any assistance when Melissa Smith rose to the occasion…
This lady was standing alongside her child as she grasped a makeshift sign and begged for any spare cash. She stood on the side of the street with her massive belly, as she longed and hoped for some sort of gratitude to pass by. Those that came across her path easily saw that she was with child, little did they know that she held with her a bigger secret, this was greater than anything…
Melissa Smith has the impeccable quality and ability to care for others, she is somewhat maternal in instincts. She is certainly not an individual who ignores an individual begging on the corner. Smith noticed that this beggar, in particular, was pregnant, she was instantly compelled to stop and investigate how she could aid.
She was frozen on the spot as she looked on. She searched her brain for possible reasons – any reason. But one thing is clear, she had been made a fool for a long time! She couldn’t believe what she was seeing: the panhandler getting inside an expensive car. She then understood that she had to follow and solve this mystery. She was not prepared for the lies that she would uncover.
Melissa Smith who is from San Diego, California was doing her usual routine on a normal day when she saw the beggar again. However, something felt strange to Melissa, and following her instinct, she made a choice to do some sleuthing of her own. As she was standing by her car, she saw the panhandler and her child – a boy – leave. The next thing she saw was what spurred her into action.
East Lake Village Center
The beggar had actually made a spot for herself near a shopping plaza, at East Lave Village Center to be exact. This shopping district has a wide range of shops from goodwill, dentists, restaurants, hair stylists, and of course, retail. The pregnant beggar knew for sure that this place would have a lot of people who were willing to give their extra money to the needy. But what she did not expect though is that someone like Smith would be observing her.
It is not a new thing to see panhandlers and homeless people in California, but still, people must know that not all of them are really hopeless. Smith especially felt a bit apprehensive about this pregnant beggar but hadn’t really entertained the idea when she saw her on the same spot every weekend. Smith said, “I felt bad. There’s a pregnant lady with a little boy who is down on her luck.” She didn’t know that her instinct was actually right.
Standing next to her car she simply watched the beggar and her young son walk away. However, what she saw next made her spring straight to work. She knew that the beggar would usually reside near the shopping plaza known as East Lake Village Center, there was a specific place there. The center is a known spot for dentists, hairstylists, thrift stores, restaurants and is a hub for normal mall stuff.
The pregnant panhandler would stay under the scorching heat of the sun to ask for some extra cash. But she wasn’t always alone, sometimes her young son would join her on her spot. Smith said that there were days when the boy’s dad would also stand there with them. They actually became quite known in the area as pregnant beggars are not very common. The fact that she’s pregnant actually pulled on people’s heartstrings and would make them give more than usual because of her condition. But what do you think Smith found out about this panhandler?
The streets of California like most other cities has tons of homeless individuals and ones that are begging, it is rather common. Just because an individual may be a beggar does not mean that they are necessarily homeless. Although Smith was apprehensive about this beggar in particular, especially because she was pregnant, she chose to not think about such a thing when seeing her.
Smith exclaimed, “I felt bad. There’s a pregnant lady with a little boy who is down on her luck.” No one would dare think that her instincts were steering her in the totally correct direction. She had seen this beggar standing in the Californian heat, in direct sunlight, as she begged for money. She had witnessed this time and time again.
Woman in Question
Smith was not really suspicious until that day. She had kept seeing the same woman on the same spot at the shopping center for two months. Smith thought that the woman just really needed money. Staying out there for a long time, especially under the heat of the sun, would have been extremely difficult for anyone, let alone a pregnant woman! But then, Smith saw something, and she knew she should not stay silent about it.
The pregnant panhandler must have mastered the art of begging as she had to pull on people’s heartstrings to get their money. She must have made the plan: a pregnant woman begging for money with her little boy at her side. She even had a cardboard with her with the words “Please Help” written on it. Who wouldn’t feel bad for someone like that? Of course, people felt bad for them and gave them money. Smith thought that they would be discovered soon. She didn’t know then that she would be instrumental in exposing a much larger scheme.
Her Recognizable Sign
Smith later realized a rather shocking and unusual sight. She would never have expected this nor did she foresee such a thing. Smith had no suspicions and no wary feelings until this moment arose. Her suspicions were well validated as she had realized that this beggar had been residing in the same spot for two consecutive months at this point.
Smith’s residence is actually near the shopping district. But it was her first time to go there at that specific time. She would usually do her errand at the shopping center around mid-morning. As she was leaving the area, she realized that her gas was running low. She then immediately went to the gas station right across the East Lake Village Center. She was filling up her gas tank when she saw something suspicious which started her investigation.
At The Gas Station
Smith had now gathered more information about this beggar. This beggar in particular was rather familiar with how the begging game goes, she knew it as if it was an art. This beggar knew exactly how to get what she needed and how to truly manipulate those bystanders in order to make money. She was all too familiar with the job and truly tugged at the emotions of people.
Smith saw the pregnant beggar beginning to move while she was pumping gas into her car. She didn’t find it strange, after all, she must have been tired after all that time under the sun. Smith continued to observe her until she noticed a car head towards the pregnant woman. This made Smith even more interested. What happened next proved her suspicions to be right.
Individuals would donate to her because they felt sorry for her or pitied her, naturally, they would and this was their way of helping and the easiest way too. Although Smith was well aware she would soon get caught and all would be exposed, time could not be wasted. Smith lived in a nearby suburb that was close to the shopping area itself.
She generally would not drop past the shopping district at the specific time she was. Smith preferred to attend to her errands in the morning and before noon. On this particular day, she had completed all she needed to do and was feeling rather accomplished. Thus, she had some free time and she would not let it go to waste.
Smith couldn’t understand what was happening at first. But when she looked closely, she saw that the driver was the little boy’s father. What really surprised her was the kind of car he was driving, a Mercedes Benz – a famous luxury brand. One of these cars costs a fortune. Smith was wondering what beggars are doing with such an expensive car. She didn’t think twice and followed them. What she discovered next was headlines material.
Smith said that the car looked new. “They were leaving, and I noticed they went into a Mercedes Benz. I thought, ‘Wow, a Mercedes Benz?'” stated Smith. She recorded the whole thing on her phone when she followed the family in the Mercedes Benz. “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 all the way in the front seat with them,” she said. She had never felt so betrayed. She thought that she needed to make this known to everyone. Little did she know the extent of their deception.
As she watched the beggar she realized that a vehicle was headed directly in her direction. Naturally, she felt compelled to investigate further, she simply needed to know what was to follow. Her gut feeling was spot on, she could not believe it. Her gut had led her to the complete and whole truth. It took a minute until she fully processed what was actually going down.
Once she was able to get a better look at the vehicle, she established that the individual who was driving the car was in fact the young boy’s dad. This was not even the beginning of what took her by surprise. She was in total astonishment that the car was none other than a Mercedes Benz, an extremely expensive car a known luxury car brand!
Smith continued to follow the car and saw that they reached another shopping center. It’s not even far from the one they came from. It seemed like everything was perfectly planned out. When they reached the shopping district, the pregnant beggar got out of the car and made a fool of everyone all over again. Smith said, “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.” She didn’t know that the law would soon investigate and uncover a much more serious plot.
Their Next Move
Smith said, “They were leaving, and I noticed they went into a Mercedes Benz. I thought, ‘Wow, a Mercedes Benz?’” She pulled out her phone and videoed the entire thing, a very smart move. “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 further explained.
She watched the situation play out right in front of her eyes as she followed and cautiously tracked the Mercedes Benz. Smith was taken over by a feeling of betrayal and was totally mislead! As much as she was ready to out them she needed to learn and investigate the situation further before doing so, although she felt totally compelled.
As they had reached the next shopping center which was still close to the first place she had seen the pair, she realized that it was all somewhat systematic. The entire thing had been carefully planned out. The beggar and her pregnant belly once again exited the car and proceeded to the corner to beg, making an absolute fool of those generous enough to donate.
The Saga Continues
Melissa Smith continued to bystand and see what they were getting up to. She was still the genuine and compassionate being she naturally was and she longed for them to have another reason for doing this. She wished she had misread the situation and simply hoped there had been a misunderstanding.
Enraged with Fury
Smith then approached the beggar and her little boy. As she did so, she started taking pictures. The pregnant panhandler saw her and was instantly furious. She started yelling and even took the rock supporting her sign. “Next thing I know, she picked up this big boulder,” said Smith, “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.” Someone saw everything and called the authorities. But when the panhandler realized what was going on, she grabbed her child and ran away.
An Eye Witness
Little did Melissa know that they were being investigated by the authorities, they may have been savvy and calculated but not calculated enough! Their operation would soon enough be bust. In actual fact, she was unaware of how much was actually being hidden and the full extent of this operation, something much worse would soon be revealed…
This was not the end of all the deception it went on as the father simply parked his beautiful Mercedes and each time the woman and child would get out and make their way to yet another curb, the curb of another store. Almost instantly, she had people in the palm of her hands wanting to give her money and help her.
Smith got in touch with a news station and also reveal everything on the internet. She wanted to warn everyone about this grand plan concocted by this deceiving beggar. The story got the news station’s attention and they decided to run the car’s plate number. They were surprised to find out that the car was under a woman’s name and that the address was undisclosed. It was surprising to know that others may have been onto the same beggar, too.
Reporters followed the scent and they found out that the woman lived in Encinitas Heights Apartments, an apartment complex that costs residents $ 2,500 a month. They knocked on the door a couple of times, but no one answered the door. After a few more times, they were informed that the residents in the said apartment just moved in. And that the one they were after had packed up and left.
As Smith had recorded everything on her phone, the news and social media showed a lot of interest in this mystery beggar. The story was spread, and everyone soon found out about it. Smith said, “I feel bad. Don’t give these people money. They don’t need it. They’re driving a Benz.” People were infuriated by what they saw. The journalists then received a call that spurred them into action.
Rebecca, another witness, saw the beggar at another shopping center. She said that she recognized the beggar as she went to the area to do some shopping. She called the journalists and a few minutes later, one of them arrived – Emily Valdez.
When Valdez received the call, she immediately went to the said area and looked for the mystery panhandler. To her surprise, she didn’t see a pregnant woman. Instead, she saw a woman holding a baby. But only two days had passed since Melisa Smith took the photos. So, what happened?
“Is This You?”
Valdez and her crew approached the woman and asked, “Is this you, begging?” as she showed her the picture of a pregnant beggar on her phone. The woman said she did not speak English after looking at the picture for some time. Was it really her? Interestingly, the woman holding a baby also had a boy in tow that looked suspiciously like the one in the picture. Just when they were asking the woman, the father arrived.
He told the cameras to go away and took his family with him. They were caught on camera, getting inside a minivan. But the news crew were not discouraged. They ran the pictures of both women on a facial recognition program and the results showed an 80% match. However, Valdez thought that there was more to the story than met the eye.
The man first spoke to Spanish, but he switched to another language as he talked to the female beggar. he unknowingly blew his cover with this small detail. Valdez replayed the recording and noticed the different language that he used. She then called in the experts to get some answers.
A recently retired detective by the name of Leslie Albright watched the news report of Valdez. She had worked as a detective at the San Diego Police Department for 25 years and her specialization? Underground crime rings. There was something about this particular case that caught her attention, and she suddenly realized that the woman involved was more than just an ordinary beggar.
Under the Exterior
The woman who made a lot of people furious because of what she did was about to be exposed. However, the story did not just end there. This case actually showed a growing problem in the area. Beneath the fancy and glittering façade of California was a dark underbelly that was getting bigger and bigger. A Redditer had resolved to expose everything, despite the risks.
Leslie had witnessed many criminal activities in her tenure as a cop and when she heard the man speak, she had a hunch that something was definitely wrong. As she listened to the recording from Valdez and her crew, she recognized the language that the man used. She realized that the modus operandi of the beggar perfectly matched that of the others that she had seen in the past. But what could it possibly be?
Albright said that the couple was connected to a crime ring in California. They came to the country illegally and were committing various crimes every day. They were said to live in apartment blocks which were expensive and that they had many cars at their disposal to successfully pull their scams on innocent people. The two, the woman and the child’s father, may not be a real couple at all. And the “pregnancy” may have been just a tactic to pull the heartstrings of anyone who passed by. But else were the crimes they were involved in? This case sure had more layers that needed to be uncovered.
Unfortunately, this particular crime group does not stay in one place for a long period of time. This makes the police’ work in locking them down extremely difficult. When they feel that someone has caught on their scheme, they immediately move on to their next location. This is exactly the case with the two suspects. But someone who knew them gave information about them and endangered his own life in the process.
A man, who saw the video about the beggar, stepped up and gave Reddit all the information he knew about the suspects. He said, “…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 also said that he knew about the woman’s unpleasant past and how she had to start working for the said organization at a young age. After divulging the said details, he removed his Reddit account because of fear that the underground crime organization would find out who he was.
The Bottom Rung
Further investigation showed that the woman in the video and pictures often pretended to be pregnant to elicit pity from unsuspecting victims. This helped her make more than $500 in one day. The sad truth is that there may be more women like her around the country. The crime organization’s inner systems and operations are quite complicated, with some men heading the entire group from the top. They assure women that they would provide food and housing, so they could dispatch them in various areas across the country. Their deceptive ways of begging are sure to keep them in lavish homes and maintain expensive lifestyles. But that’s not all there is to it.
Albright said in one interview, “They’ll use the babies, children, any way they can… the children will not go to school because their job and their future is the Family Business.” These children will grow up knowing only the life of crime and deceiving people. The Redditer who exposed this whole organization also wrote: “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.” Write after blowing the whistle, he started getting threating phone calls, but he wrote something more before he removed himself from Reddit.
The nameless Reddit informant wrote, “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.” The authorities are searching for the head of this organization, and people have now become more cautious in giving their money away to panhandlers as the story became viral. After all, we don’t know what other modus operandi this Californian crime organization have up their sleeves.