The 6 Most Despicable Ways People Tried to Raise Money
If you've spent time on Craigslist, you know that people will do anything short of selling their kidneys to Russian mobsters to make a buck. But while some folks dither around in the shallow end of the lunatic pool, a handful of money grubbers dive head first into the murky waters of Insane Money Making Schemes Bay. These individuals show precisely the sort of can-do pluck and outside-the-box thinking that you'd see in movies that end with a dance off to save the orphanage, if those movies starred sociopaths.
Selling Chicken Pox to Parents
Getting chicken pox sucks when you're a kid, but contracting it as an adult can be downright dangerous. For this reason, or possibly because they hate their children, some parents opt to intentionally expose their kids to the virus. Seizing the chance to knowingly infect their offspring with a dangerous pathogen and forever ruin the bond of parental trust, soccer moms shuttle their kids to "pox parties." These shindigs are thrown by parents of sick children in the hope that their unwitting biological warfare agent will share germs, thus readying them for an adult life of spreading strange STDs at orgies.
There's no funner time to have 30 people over than when you're running a 104-degree fever.
Doctors advise against intentionally sharing diseases, because duh, but some parents remain determined to make their children suffer. Tennessee native Wendy Werkit, sensing an opportunity to make some scratch off her sick kid, decided to reach out to parents who couldn't make it to pox parties. Werkit sold infected cotton swabs and lollipops for the bargain price of 50 bucks a germ-ridden pop, because what harm could possibly come from trying to spread a disease far and wide?
God only knows how she infected them.
Werkit launched her attempt to become the modern Typhoid Mary by posting an ad on the Facebook group Find a Pox Party in Your Area peddling a "fresh batch of pox in Nashville shipping of suckers, spit, and Q-Tips available tomorrow 50 dollars via PayPal." Before you rush to have a stranger mail you spit, you should know that her operation was quickly shut down. It turns out it's illegal to mail viruses, as anyone who follows the news, stops to think for 10 seconds, or doesn't have a raccoon nest where their brain should be knows.
"Don't look at me, pal; I thought it was dumb, too."
She told the local news that the idea came when she realized that parents were frustrated because "they can't get the normal way anymore." No shit -- they're called vaccines, Wendy. It's the same reason you can no longer get rich quick selling polio braces and plague carts.
Pretending to Have Breast Cancer to Get Free Implants
Pop culture has taught us that women with small breasts are living an empty half-life, forever denied the joy of being ogled in public and made the target of sex-starved teenagers' wacky schemes. Fearing she was doomed to this joyless existence, Jami Lynn Toler of Phoenix, Arizona, decided that she really needed breast implants and that she'd really like to not pay for them. Because really, shouldn't getting bigger boobs be considered a public works project?
All of a sudden, roads and electrical grids don't seem like the best use of tax dollars.
Now, unless you're content with having your breasts stuffed full of shredded newspaper and dog hair in a Tijuana back alley, a new cup size doesn't come cheap. The 27-year-old realized that she'd need some serious cash, so she concocted what could generously be called a plan. Telling friends, family, and her boss that she had breast cancer and needed reconstructive surgery, Toler organized fundraisers and a donation site, raking in eight grand to pay for her "mastectomy" and implants.
It takes a lot to make your "pay for boobs" site dishonest by Internet standards.
Sure, she probably felt a little guilty that the money didn't go to people who actually have cancer, but would those patients even want to live in a world where Jamie Lynn's breasts weren't bigger?
Sadly, things went south when Toler declined a doctor's offer of a free mastectomy, and also when she discovered that it's actually kind of tricky to fake having cancer. Paying the plastic surgeon in cash didn't help, and given what we know of her, she probably handed it over in a sack with a dollar sign on it. Toler was arrested, charged with fraud and theft, and sentenced to a year in jail followed by three years on probation, during which she presumably won't be allowed to use her new breasts.
"In my defense, Your Honor, check out these ta-tas."
If only she had known that it's much easier to fund your implants by flat-out asking creepy guys on the Internet to give you money.
Going to Jail for Health Care
North Carolina resident James Verone had no money, no job, and some serious medical problems, including "a growth of some sort on his chest, two ruptured disks, and a problem with his left foot." When your diagnosis is so vague that you could be growing anything from a wart to the stomach monster from Total Recall, you need medical care fast. Verone decided that the best place to get it would be in jail.
They skipped that part in The Shawshank Redemption.
In 2011, the 59-year-old walked into a bank and handed the teller a note demanding the sum of $1. After establishing that this was a robbery and not a request to borrow money so he could grab a Kit-Kat from the vending machine, the teller called the police. Verone waited patiently for them to arrive, knowing that any villain worth his salt these days gets caught on purpose as part of his evil scheme.
Telling the cops they've fallen into your scheme, however, seems like an invitation to police brutality.
In this case, going to jail was the lynchpin of Verone's retirement plan -- he needed a way to fix his physical woes and keep a roof over his head for three years before he could start collecting Social Security. Describing himself as a "logical-type person" in the worst self-assessment this side of online dating profiles, Verone even consulted a real estate agent as part of his pre-theft preparations. His dream was to put his Social Security money toward a condo on Myrtle Beach -- all that was standing between him and his little slice of paradise was three years in the clink.
Then it's time to sit back, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and have flashback panics whenever you drop a bar of soap.
Unfortunately, a problem emerged when Verone was given the lesser charge of larceny instead of bank robbery, because it doesn't count as a bank job if you could have gotten more money from hitting the local lemonade stand. Verone responded by trying to bribe the judge with five bucks and a Quiznos coupon, hopefully.
Faking a Pregnancy and Selling the "Baby"
The ability to bear children is one of fate's wild cards. Some people who shouldn't be trusted with a Tamagotchi are the human equivalent of the Fertile Crescent, while others who seem like they'd be perfectly capable parents are stuck with the baby-making capabilities of irradiated mutants.
Don't let the protective posture fool you; she's almost the Toxic Avenger.
As a result of the unequal distribution of human spawn points, some childless folks fork over huge sums of money to adopt offspring. Looking to get rich off of baby-crazy types in Oklahoma City, Serena Carol Mathews and Scott Thomas Smith decided to sell their baby without going through all the hassle of actually having one. The couple scammed potential adoptive parents out of nearly $37,000, getting them to pay for everything from toiletries to the water bill. Checks were written to Mathews' "landlord," who was actually Smith. Reports that he wore a false mustache and called himself Mr. Lord could not be confirmed.
"Who should you make it out to? How about 'Mr. Cash.'"
Obviously they could only stuff a pillow up Mathews' shirt for so long before people got suspicious, which is where a pregnant friend came in. In a true display of friendship, their pal gave them urine to fake pregnancy tests. The couple also doctored ultrasound images and assumed fake identities, because nobody would suspect that Sarah Notascammer wasn't on the level.
"Here's your new daughter! You should know, she's REALLY lazy."
What they weren't able to fake was an actual birth. When no baby emerged after nine months, people started to suspect that the whole deal wasn't quite kosher. Investigators eventually determined that the pair were part of a larger fake adoption ring that defrauded over 20 couples in several states, and also that Mathews and Smith were terrible at long-term planning. They got 27 months in prison and had to pay restitution, which seems like a lot to go through considering that they could have just had a damn baby and still turned a profit.
Killing Off Fake People and Collecting Insurance Money
Like most people, Jean Crump really wanted more money. Unlike most people, she had the moral compass of Gordon Gecko crossed with a Disney villain. Being a resourceful mortician, she decided to give herself a sizable insurance-company-subsidized raise, because we all know that the insurance industry is famous for giving money away willy-nilly.
"It looks worse than it is. Here's 40 bucks."
Crump, who at 69 should have already retired to spend her days annoying waitresses at IHOP, took out insurance policies on people who were either fake or already six feet under. Tragically, these people soon "died," and Crump and her accomplices billed insurance companies for funeral and burial costs. They managed to make about $315,000 before the companies began to wonder if she was the Angel of Death.
"I came for the money; I stayed for the clothes."
When investigators started sniffing around, Crump and Co. tried to cover up their shenanigans with all the batshit ingenuity of people who thought this scam made any sense in the first place. Lacking actual bodies, they dug up the casket of supposed dead man Jim Davis and filled it with a mannequin and cow parts. (Worst Garfield comic ever.) They wanted to make the casket weigh enough to quell the suspicions of crematory employees -- why this required dead cow bits instead of literally anything else is unknowable. After Davis was cremated, he was then "buried at sea," which we assume is a polite way of saying that Crump flushed cow ash down the toilet.
And yet she still paid for a bagpiper to play "Amazing Grace."
Crump would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for a meddling doctor and would-be accomplice who was acting as an informant for the FBI. Crump was sentenced to a year and a half in the clink, although we'd like to think she tried to fake her own death to get out of it.
Selling Your Name (or Your Newborn's)
Shakespeare once asked, "What's in a name?" Centuries later, Terri Ilagan decided that the answer was a marketing opportunity worth $15,199.
"A rose by any other name would still not smell as sweet as 15 large."
In 2005, Golden Palace Casino paid the 33-year-old Tennessean to change her name to GoldenPalace.com after she put her moniker up for auction on eBay. "I was driving one day and I told my husband, I don't think anyone's tried to sell their name on eBay yet," she said. "So I put it up for auction and I got all kind of responses within 24 hours of it being listed." Note the lack of a pause to consider that there might be a good reason nobody had tried that.
Because your entire life starts to sound like your spam folder?
Most people would be wary of sharing a naming convention with the society from Idiocracy, but the mother of five says she sold her name to help support her family. There was no word on what selling her dignity, the respect of her friends and loved ones, and the chance of ever being taken seriously by society again netted her. Her children now call her Goldie, because that way they can pretend their mom is named after Goldie Hawn instead of a website for people who think the fun of gambling comes from sitting alone in a dark computer room.
"This is fun, but is there somewhere I can turn out the lights and weep quietly into my Mountain Dew?"
Now, turning yourself into a living advertisement is one thing, but subjecting a poor, helpless baby to a corporate branding is a whole different ballgame. Just a few months after Mrs. DotCom's stunt, the same casino paid a couple $15,000 to name their son "GoldenPalace.com Silverman." Golden Palace's CEO congratulated the proud new parents/terrible human beings, saying, "We wish them and their beautiful baby boy all the best." "Because, oh man, he's going to need it. That poor kid's going to get the shit bullied out of him. You better hope that 15 grand is enough to cover his counseling bills, suckers," was implied. It's an even greater shame when you realize that Cracked.com Silverman sounds way better.
Related Reading: Oh yes, fund-raising gets worse than this. The name 9/11 Dove shoot ought to be proof enough of that. And did you know some schools have started selling ad space on their buses? If all this talk of terrible causes has your wallet lubed up, why not help Cobra commander raise $94 billion?
Help Cracked raise money shamelessly by buying a t-shirt.