This article is written from a taped interview from a lady who lost everything she had by becoming involved with someone she didn’t know. This happened 11 years ago, but she remembers it like it happened yesterday. “Sandra” wants to share her story if it can help other women and men to know who they are dating. She didn’t find this man on the internet, but the same rules apply. Everyone who meets someone new should do their homework on the man or woman they are thinking of getting involved with. Sandra lost everything she owned, partly because of this man she didn’t know and party from her own lack of common sense. Here is her story:
“I was lonely after my divorce. I had lived several years without anyone special in my life. I was really hoping to find someone to share my life with. My children were grown and out of the house, and I was all alone. It was before computers were so popular; I didn’t even have a computer then. I had seen some personal ads in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. If you wanted to meet a specific person through their personal ad, you would call the number in the ad and listen to the message, and then leave a message for them.
“I didn’t want to be the one to leave messages and then never get a call back, so I placed an ad myself, and I left a voice message describing myself and I talked about the kind of man I hoped to meet. In just a matter of days I was getting calls. When I picked up the phone, I was directed to press 1 to hear the recorded message. One said, “Hello, my name is Terry. I like the sound of your voice. I would love for us to get together and break bread.” He went on to say he was a judge. There were lots of other calls too. If I was interested, I would call the contact number the person left. I got a call from a doctor, that judge I just mentioned and I felt they were just looking to hook up and not really serious about a real relationship, so I never called them back.
“A day or two later I got a call from a guy with a nice southern drawl. He sort of sounded like Andy Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show. His voice just made me smile. I called his number and he answered on the second ring. Our first phone conversation lasted 2 hours. I gave him my name and phone number on that initial call. The next day he called me and we talked and talked. I guess we talked nearly 8 hours that day.
“Normally I wouldn’t just meet someone, but I trusted him. I guess it was his voice and his demeanor on the phone. We decided to meet. He was going to come from Carrolton, GA to Covington, GA where I lived. He said his name was Eric Wrigley. I joked and asked if he was related to the Wrigley’s Gum Company. He said he was distantly related. We met at a Waffle House. I thought that was the safest place to meet a stranger. We could have coffee and if we liked each other we could go from there, or we could end the meeting there without losing more than the price of a cup of coffee.
“Now, let me tell you, he wasn’t the best looking guy in the world, but I thought he was decent, at least. He told me how he was related to the Wrigley’s. He said he was independently wealthy, but just couldn’t get to his money until a bunch of red tape was settled. I bought his story hook, line and sinker. I knew nothing about him other than what he told me, but the gullible person I am fell for it. I just liked him. He was very personable. He said he liked me, and that encouraged me-being over 200 pounds, there wasn’t a lot of men knocking at my door, if you know what I mean.
“Time passed and he called me every day and we talked and talked. I worked at night, so I wasn’t always getting a lot of sleep due to the long phone calls. I was struggling to pay rent and bills and survive, and I didn’t want to miss work just for being too tired to go in. I mentioned to him that I couldn’t talk to long because it was interfering with my rest. He mentioned that he would love to take care of me. He mentioned again about his wealth that was coming to him when the will was probated
“For once I was tempted to let him move in with me. The Lord only knew I needed the help with my finances. He showed up at my door in a cab. He moved everything he had with him into my home, and that amounted to a suitcase and 3 boxes. Why didn’t warning bells go off then that things weren’t quite right, I will never know. I asked him why he didn’t come in his own car. Certainly he was doing well enough to have his own car! Maybe I wanted a relationship so much that I was willing to close my eyes to the most obvious of lies. There was no way this guy was independently wealthy. His shoes were only tennis shoes. He just didn’t have the businessman look about him. He explained everything away so well I just believed everything he said. How stupid could I be? Hind sight is always 20/20 they say.
“He always had money on him, yet he didn’t go to work. He didn’t have a job, yet he had money. I believed his story that he had a trust fund. I believed he was wealthy. I believed he was who he said he was. Soon into our relationship he talked to me about leaving my job and going away with him. He talked about the ranch that his family has in Texas. He talked about how that ranch was going to be all his when his father’s estate was finalized.
“Eric took over my life. He drove me to work every day and picked me up. He never let me drive. In a way it irritated me, and in a way I felt taken care of. He spoke to me about getting another car. He said for us to drive cross country I would need another car. I just followed his lead and went into a used car lot and traded my car in for a sporty little Ford Focus. My car was perfectly good and paid for. Why did I let him lead me around? I have no idea. Everything seemed to make sense, because I believed every word that came out of his mouth.
“I was on disability and had a part time job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. Everyone at work was upset when I gave my notice. Paula, the doctor’s wife, who was also my supervisor, pleaded with me not to go with this man. I didn’t listen to her. I was in love. I thought I was in love, more like it. I finished my notice and I burned all my bridges. Eric said I didn’t need anyone but him. He took charge of everything and I let him.
“I was looking forward of getting out of the trailer park I lived in. He advertised in the paper to sell all my belongings. He said he had all I would ever need. We sold my washer and drier for a $150. My brand new bed was sold for $250. Everything I owned was sold and I was left with nothing but the clothes on my back and a couple of suitcases. We left with my severance pay, and with the money he had in his pocket. By the way, my money was in his pocket too. He kept everything. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t question him about it either. I was almost happy that I didn’t have any responsibility. I was happy that I was going to get a home and a husband. Oh yes, he told me we would get married too. I was ready for life on the ranch.
“We started driving around the country. We were supposed to be going to Texas, but he went the long way. We stopped in Joplin Missouri. He went into a government building and came out with a birth certificate with another name. David was the first name, but I have no recollection of the last name. I remember wrinkling my brow trying to figure out what was going on.
“We spent the night in Joplin in a motel. Later that night a really loud knock came at the door. It was the Joplin police department. Two cops were at the door. They had spotted my car. My car had a lien on it from the place where it was purchased. When the payment wasn’t made dealer sent the cops to my trailer. Of course I wasn’t there because I had moved bag and baggage into that car with Eric, or whatever his name was. The dealer put out an All Points Bulletin for my car when the cops reported I had moved out. I had no idea about what was happening. I was so scared. The cops weren’t interested in us; they just wanted to repossess the car. The cops explained to me that the payment had never been paid. I looked at Eric for answers and he wasn’t forthcoming. He unloaded the boxes out of the car, and a wrecker was called to get it. I never saw it again.
“There was something going on behind the scenes that I didn’t know about. Before he ever moved in with me I had a checking account that I wasn’t using. My balance had gotten messed up so I was not writing any checks until I got my statement. I have had to do that many times before when my book didn’t balance. I would work with cash until my statements came and then when I knew what my balance really was after everything cleared I could again use the checkbook. Unknown to me he had stolen my checkbook and was writing checks with my signature.
“Little did I know that he was buying lottery tickets with my checks. He was forging my name and going into convenience stores and buying huge amounts of lottery tickets. His cash was coming from his winnings. He had been writing checks all over the surrounding area of where I was living. I wouldn’t know about that until sometime later. Why these stores would take my check with a man signing my name, I will never know-but that is what actually saved me in the long run. By the time the bogus checks were hitting my bank I was long gone with Eric.
“Back to the story-money was getting scarce now. There was no money to get food or spend the night in motels. He stopped using his name “Eric” and he started using the name “David” on the other birth certificate he got in Joplin Missouri. It dawned on me then that I didn’t know who he was. I demanded he tell me. He said it didn’t matter if I loved him. Things started going from bad to worse. He told me I didn’t need to know who he was. He said he was on the run from the law. He said he had killed a man and he would kill me too if I didn’t do what he said and follow his lead-no matter what it was.
“The next day was Sunday, and we had no money for another day at the hotel in Joplin. We had no money to eat or anything. He had a plan to have a church help us. He made some calls and a preacher said he would come and get us to go to church. Little did that preacher know he literally moved us from the motel room to his car, and we were homeless. Eric told the preacher that we were married. I was so scared I never let on to the preacher that I didn’t even know who that man was. The preacher felt responsible for us since we had no place to lay our head, so the church set us up in a Days Inn for a week. Then after the week Eric had a plan to move us to Florida. If you guessed that the church paid for a bus ticket, you would be right. The preacher took us with our baggage to the Greyhound bus station. We were on our way to Florida, or so I thought. He mentioned that he could get work there. We were together as far as Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“It was in the middle of the winter going from Texas to Florida. We stopped in Oklahoma. It was bitter cold, and I had no coat. I wrapped an afghan around me and that is what I wore for a coat. We never got to Florida. I was abandoned in a bus station right there in Tulsa. He had apparently met up with another mark. That is what the cop said when I later talked to him about what had happened. Apparently there was another woman waiting in the wings for someone to con her out of everything she had.
“I was there in the bus station in Tulsa 12 hours before security decided I was a vagrant. Busses came and went and I was always sitting in the same place, and finally security noticed me. I tried to tell the woman security officer what had happened. I had no identification, no purse, nothing. Everything I owned except the clothes on my back were in boxes on the bus headed for Florida-I couldn’t prove who I was. She said I would have to leave the bus station. I had no coat and it was freezing outside. I called 911. I had no money for a phone call, but 911 was free. The cops came and asked the officer on duty if I could just stay that night in the station. She was not a happy about me going over her head. She said I had better be gone by morning.
“Now I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten since Eric had bought some fries that we shared on one of the stops after we left Texas. With no money in my pocket, I couldn’t even buy a cup of coffee. I walked down to the canteen and asked if I could have a slice of bread. I said I was hungry.
“No, ma’am!” was the answer I got from the man working behind the counter. I then asked if I could have a pack of sugar. I tried to explain that I had hypoglycemia, and I was feeling weak and sick. Could I please have some sugar? Again I got a negative reply and he said to get out of his canteen. He said if I was sick I could call an ambulance. He dismissed me then like any other homeless person on the street. I finally knew what it was like to be homeless.
“I found my way back to where I had been sitting all day and night. I picked up the phone and made a collect call to my brother. I was ashamed to call him and tell him what was going on with me, but I had to be out of there by morning. Thank God he was home. He had just gotten back from Los Vegas, Nevada from a gambling vacation. I told him what had happened to me, and he wired me $150 from Western Union. I told him about not having any identification, so he gave me a pass word. Without ID I would need a secret pass code given by the sender. As long as I gave the correct pass word I could claim it.
“My brother saved my life. The next morning he sent the money. I was able to claim it and buy something to eat. I bought a ticket home. The only problem was I had no home. When the bus pulled into my home town I arranged for my best friend to pick me up. She told me about how all the cops looking for me. I had to answer for all those bad checks Eric had written, so I turned myself in.
“I spent 30 days in jail. I wasn’t guilty of writing the checks, but still I had to prove it somehow. I didn’t bond out of jail. My attorney had a hand writing analyst come and take samples from me, and my signature was compared to the signature on the 14 fraudulent checks and it was determined that I did not write any of those checks.
Internet dating has replaced meeting people from personal ads that were so common in the papers 10 and 20 years ago. It is just as important now as it was then to know who you are letting into your lives. Sandra didn’t have any children at home, which is a good thing in her case. Women do this all the time. They let men into their lives that totally mess up their lives and their children’s lives. Sometimes the victims never live to tell their stories. Sandra was one of the lucky ones. I placed Sandra’s name in quotations in the first paragraph, because that isn’t her real name.