A man who pretends to be mentally and physically handicapped while he goes around the streets begging claims he makes up to $100,000 a year from his panhandling.
Gary Thompson, from Texas, gets around Lexington, Kentucky, in a wheelchair which he says he needs because he has difficulty walking. He also maneuvers his hands in a way that would lead the untrained eye to believe he had difficulty using them.
Added to the fact Thompson seems to have difficulty speaking and fully understanding, he manages to illicit a lot of sympathy from others - sympathy and money. Thompson was awarded $2.4 million in a lawsuit tied to a motorcycle accident from 1993, money he said he and his family spent.
His sob story to passers by is that his family took the money he received when he was paralyzed in the accident. He does have some difficulty walking but is not totally paralyzed. When he was confronted about the scheme by LEX 18 news station, he laughed and said he doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
'I appreciate you guys busting me,' Thompson told a reporter. 'Yeah, I’m really good at it, really good. I clear about 100,000 dollars a year doing this.
'Anything from 60,0000 to 100,00 dollars. I am normal, it just helps to be mentally handicapped.' Not only can Thompson speak and use his arms properly, but he has a degree in speech pathology that allowed him to mimic a mentally disabled person. The average household income in Kentucky is around $42,000 a year. Hailing from Austin, Texas, he claims to have pulled the same stunt there before moving to Kentucky.
Police there recently held a press conference about it warning people of the scam. After LEX 18 confronted Thompson about the alleged scam, he showed no remorse and simply wheeled himself off to beg right in front of a police station. Judy McKinney told Lex 18: 'He got me! I don't make that much money, but I reached into my pocket, and gave him everything I had. Six dollars at the time.' Thompson has reportedly been charged twice this year over his scheme and pleaded guilty on both occasions.