When She Sees Car Stop For Pregnant Panhandler, She Doesn't Hesitate

When She Sees Car Stop For Pregnant Panhandler, She Doesn't Hesitate

A Mystery Unfolding

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She waited motionless and stunned. She wracked her brain for possible reasons... any reasons. She couldn't believe that she had been fooled -- and for so long. She knew something was up as she saw the beggar climb inside the car. She needed to uncover this woman's secret, so she decided to follow her. But as the mystery started to unfold, unfolded, she could never have anticipated this web of lies.

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California

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Melissa Smith spotted the panhandler again while she was running errands, as usual, in San Diego, California. She didn't know why, but today something felt off. So Melissa decided to trust her intuition and do a bit of investigating. Standing by her car, she watched the beggar and her child leave, but then she saw something that had her pulling out her phone.

Shopping Centre

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East Lake Village Center was where the beggar stood, and her favorite spot was at the shopping center. The center comprised of restaurants, salons, dentists, as well as retail stores. The pregnant woman knew that this busy spot would likely attract shoppers who had some cash to spare. But there was a flaw in her plan -- she never suspected that Smith was watching her every move.

Gut Feeling

Smith felt uneasy, even though California was no stranger to beggars and homeless people. People should be aware that some of these people are imposters. Smith had an odd feeling about this particular woman but dismissed her worry when she started to see her there every weekend. "I felt bad. There's a pregnant lady with a little boy who is down on her luck," Smith said. She never suspected that her intuition might be completely accurate.

Sympathy

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The beggar was not always alone with her child, and Smith saw the boy's father with her on some occasions. The beggar would stand in the blazing heat for hours at a time, and because it’s not every day you see a pregnant beggar, they had become quite well-known in the area. She managed to pull on the people's heartstrings, and they were willing to give her a generous amount due to her situation. But what had made Smith so curious? What was this beggar hiding?

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Standing In The Heat

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Smith had seen the pregnant woman in the same spot for over two months but had never questioned her motives. Until now. Smith had seen her standing for hours on end, and surely she must really need the cash, Smith thought. To stand for so long while being pregnant must have been excruciating -- especially in the summer heat. But then, Smith saw something happen, and she knew that she had to prove her point.

The Master Plan

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The pregnant woman knew she would be pitied by the people walking into or driving by the shopping center, and she had mastered the art of begging. She had an image in mind: a pregnant beggar with her little boy by her side. She held a piece of cardboard that had the words "Please Help" written on it, and of course, the people who passed her felt terrible and fumbled for their cash. Smith thought that her ruse would be up soon enough, but she was wrong. Smith was about to uncover something much, much, bigger.

Gas Stop

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Smith's errands were usually run during an hour in mid-morning, and she had never been to the shopping center at other times, even though she lived close by. That day, as she was driving home, she realized that she was running low on gas, so she turned around and pulled into the gas station opposite the center to fill her tank. She couldn't help but notice something odd, and this would start the investigation in earnest.

Curiosity

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Smith started to pump gas into her car, then she noticed that the pregnant beggar was on the move. This wasn't strange in itself, and she reasoned that she must need to find some shade and rest after standing there for hours. Smith continued to watch the pregnant woman and noticed that a car had swung around and was heading in the woman's direction. Smith's curiosity got the better of her, and she started to stare. What she then saw proved that her intuition had been right all along.

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A Luxury Car

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Smith couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. Then, when she got a better look, she saw that the driver of the car was the little boy's father. But that wasn't the only thing that shocked her -- the car was a new-model luxury Mercedes Benz! and she knew for a fact that this particular car cost a lot of money. But what were the panhandlers doing with such an expensive car? Smith could contain herself no longer, and what she did next made headlines everywhere.

Irrefutable Proof

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"They were leaving, and I noticed they went into a Mercedes Benz. I thought, 'Wow, a Mercedes Benz?'" Smith said later. She jumped into her car as soon as it dawned on her and began to tail the couple, recording with her phone all the while. Then she rolled up alongside the Mercedes. "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," Smith recounted. She felt absolutely betrayed. She had to get to the bottom of it and, more importantly, inform everybody about what she had seen.

Red-Handed

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Smith continued to follow the car until they pulled up to another shopping center, just a few blocks from the first one. It appeared as if the couple had everything carefully planned. When the Mercedes came to a halt, the pregnant beggar climbed out and proceeded to fool everyone again. "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," Smith said. Now, she had been caught, but Smith didn't realize that she was only scratching the surface and that the authorities would soon be involved.

Furious

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Smith drove closer to the woman and her little boy and she started to take pictures. Then, the pregnant beggar spotted her and became furious. Yelling and cursing, she picked up a huge rock that was propping up her sign. "Next thing I know, she picked up this big boulder," Smith 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." Witnesses saw everything and called the police, but as soon as the beggar had realized what was happening, she grabbed her child by the hand and ran off.

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Intrigue

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Smith wanted everybody to know about the beggar's scam, so she posted the pictures on Facebook and immediately called a news station. She warned residents in the area not to fall for the deceitful beggars' tricks. The news station, intrigued by the story, ran the number plates from the photo of the car that Smith had taken pictures of. To everyone's great surprise, they found out that the car was registered in a woman's name. There was also an address. They didn't realise that other eyes were on this particular beggar, too.

Expensive Apartment

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Journalists, following the lead, began to uncover more details. The apartment block where the woman resided was called Encinitas Heights Apartments, and residents told them that rent was $2,500 per month. Journalists knocked on the door, but nobody answered, so they left. Then, they received a phone call, and a tip-off that the couple who had lived in the apartment previously had left rather abruptly.

For All To See

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Social media and the news were very interested in the mysterious pregnant beggar, so they broadcasted the story for everyone to see, as Smith had documented everything. "I feel bad. Don't give these people money. They don't need it. They're driving a Benz," Smith said. The news left people infuriated. Then, journalists received another call and immediately leaped into action

Another Center

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Another witness had spotted the panhandler. A woman named Rebecca had been going about her shopping when she thought she recognized the beggar at another shopping center, so she called the news station and journalists were quickly informed. Within minutes, Emily Valdez had arrived at the center.

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Bewildered

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Valdez quickly got to her feet and searched the center for the mystery woman, as she had been told that the beggar was still in the area. She found her but was perplexed by what she saw. Only two days had passed since Melisa Smith had taken the pictures, but this woman was no longer pregnant. Instead, she was holding a baby.

Confrontation

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“Is this you, begging?” Valdez asked as she confronted the woman and held up her phone so that the woman could see the picture on the screen. The woman, after looking at the picture for some time, finally spoke. But all she said was that she didn't speak English. This woman who was holding the baby was also accompanied by a little boy, and he was identical to the little boy in the photo. Had she finally been caught? Just then, the father arrived.

A Match

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The man dismissed the camera crew and then guided his family to the parking lot. The camera crew filmed them getting inside a black minivan with dealer plates. But they weren't defeated -- they had another plan. They then ran facial recognition on both of the women's pictures, and it returned an 80% match. But there was something about the child's father in the interview that made Valdez think that there was much more to it.

A Small Detail

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The man had first spoken in Spanish, but then he had turned to the woman with the baby and said something in a second, unfamiliar language. He didn't know that this small detail would lead to the investigation being blown wide open. Valdez knew there was more than met the eye, and listened to the man speaking on camera again. She listened to the unfamiliar language, and then pulled out her phone.

25 Years Of Experience

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Leslie Albright had served as a specialist in underground crime rings for 25 years and had recently retired from her post at the San Diego Police Department as a detective. She had watched the recording that was taken by Valdez's camera crew and noticed something, and nodded her head. And then it hit her -- this was no ordinary beggar.

Beneath The Surface

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There was more to this story. Even though the beggar's scam was about to be exposed, with the whole area reeling at the levels of her deception, there was also a growing problem in the community. There was a dark underbelly under California's trendy surface, and it was growing bigger every day. One Redditer, determined to bring it all to the surface, leaked his information at great risk to himself.

A Give-Away

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Leslie had experience in rooting out crime, and the moment she heard the man speak was the tipping point in the case. Recognizing the language the man spoke in the recording taken by Valdez's camera crew, she recognized it right away. The modus operandi fitted perfectly. But what else could this couple be hiding?

Digging Deeper

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Albright is convinced that the couple is part of an organized crime ring in California. It is common for them to stay in expensive apartments and have several cars to enable them to scam their unsuspecting targets. They had entered the country illegally. They commit crimes on a daily basis -- it's their bread and butter. Albright suspects that the "couple" is not a couple at all. The begar's "pregnancy" is also just a tactic to fool the locals. But what other crimes could they be behind? -- there was clearly more to this story than meets the eye.

On The Move

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The biggest problem with this case was that the group is hard to pinpoint because they continue to move from place to place. They pack up and move on in an instant when they get wind that someone is investigating them. This was exactly what this pair of suspects did. One man, who remains unnamed, was about to come forward with valuable information about the mysterious couple, endangering himself in the process.

Inside Information

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One man, after seeing the video, leaked information on a Reddit thread: "...I had a friend of a friend tell me that they knew them and that they're just a hustling pair of Con Artists who's families conned their way into the country." He then said that he had details about the woman's shaded history, too. He explained that she had been working within the crime ring from a tender age. After he posted the new information, he thought better of it and removed himself from Reddit entirely in hopes that the crime ring would be unable to identify him.

The Wheel Turns

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The Redditer also explained that the "pregnant" beggar is not pregnant at all, but uses a foam prop under her shirt. The master plan is to fool people into feeling sympathy and handing out larger sums of money -- sometimes over $500 per day. And she's not the only one. The men who lead the ring promise the women food and shelter, and in return they are driven into the town to beg for money. This ensures that they have a steady income and can lead lives of luxury. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Taking Advantage Of The System

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"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," Albright explained, and these children have grown up in an environment where crime is the norm. The unnamed Redditer 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 are reporting the money they're making from her begging and both are claiming poverty to get state and federal assistance." Shortly after he had leaked the information, the Redditer started to receive threatening messages. But he had one more piece of information to share before he deleted his account.

Cautionary Tale

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"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." Because of this story, people are becoming more careful with their trust and their cash, and Investigators continue to try and pinpoint their headquarters. But what other crimes can be traced back to this crime ring in California?