Gary Thompson was exposed as a bogus beggar by a Lexington news station, and video of his confrontation is causing outrage at the ruse he pulled.
Thompson was the target of an investigation by LEX 18, which found him in a wheelchair on a public street asking for money. Thompson spoke slowly, as if he were mentally disabled, and told a story about a motorcycle accident that left him disabled and his family rich.
That part was true, the news station said — his family won $2.5 million in a lawsuit from Honda of America. But his story about being mentally disabled —and his manner of speech — was all fake. In fact, he even has a degree in speech pathology that allowed him to mimic a mentally disabled person.
Gary Thompson later admitted to his ruse on camera, saying he brings in between $60,000 and $100,000 each year.
“I appreciate you guys busting me,” Thompson told a reporter as he laughed. “Yeah, I’m really good at it, really good. I clear about 100,000 dollars a year doing this.”
Thompson added, “I am normal, it just helps to be mentally handicapped.”
His story has gone viral, with posts featured on message board and Reddit.
Thompson had apparently swindled countless people out of money with the bogus begging act, and had been arrested several times for it. Police in Lexington held a press conference about it, and authorities in Austin, Texas, said he pulled the same stunt there.
After the segment aired, LEX 18 reported that it received calls from local residents saying he got them too.
Thompson’s story is about a polar opposite from another famous beggar, Billy Ray Harris. The homeless man from Kansas City, Missouri, got an unexpected donation — a wedding ring that slipped out of a woman’s purse when she tried to give him some change.
Harris realized it was expensive and held onto the ring for a day in the hopes that she would return for it. When she did, Harris gave her the ring — and became a celebrity. He now has more than $100,000 in online donations from strangers who were touched by his story.
Gary Thompson doesn’t have such a happy ending. He didn’t appear to be remorseful at all for his fake begging act — right after he was interviewed by LEX 18, Thompson resumed begging in his mentally disabled character, while still in front of the police station.