Strangers help elderly couple swindled out of money

Andrew Robinson
Published on January 9, 2016
Donna Ryan
Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Compass

There was a fortunate turn of events for an elderly couple forced to pay damages in a plot that allegedly involved a person impersonating a police officer

A couple from the Conception Bay North area was contacted by a woman who claimed they were at fault for damage to her vehicle. The elderly man wasn't entirely convinced, given there was also damage to the hood of the vehicle. He refused to pay.

He learned a complaint was filed with the RCMP detachment in Harbour Grace, but was also told police wouldn't get involved if the accident involved a minor amount of damage.

Later, he received a call from a person claiming to be an officer with the Bay Roberts RCMP detachment who said if he didn't pay the couple $250, he could be charged with a hit-and-run offence. The man on the phone did not give his name. Spurred on by his wife, who wanted the matter to go away, he gave the money to the woman.

Donna Ryan of Spaniard's Bay was at the detachment in Bay Roberts on Dec. 17 to report an accident when the man was sharing this story, but did not speak with him directly at that time. She told The Compass an officer who spoke with the man said anyone from the detachment would have to identify himself by name when talking to a civilian.

"I felt really bad," Ryan said, noting the man lives in a senior's home and has a monthly allowance that falls below the amount paid to the woman.

"When I came home that night, I was sitting here and I said to (my husband) Paul, 'We ended up with $3,000 in damage on our car. That's nothing compared to the $250 he lost.'"

When she got home, Ryan relayed this tale on Facebook and watched as over 140 people shared it. Talk turned to finding a way to help the man, and Ryan herself agreed to contribute the first $20. By the end of the night, family and friends collected the full $250.

Ryan's post managed to find its way to the man himself - his daughter saw what she wrote and brought it to his attention. He called her two days later to tell her he was overcome with emotion upon reading what she wrote.

"He was in tears crying," she said. "I said, 'You really broke my heart when I knew that you were being scammed.'"

That evening, she had the $250 fully collected along with a care package, but couldn't track the couple down.

Oddly enough, Ryan's sister-in-law took a call at the family's home the next day from the man thanking Ryan for dropping off the money. It turned out her post inspired someone else to leave an anonymous $250 donation for the man at the seniors complex where he lives.

She finally tracked him down at a church service to drop off the money and care package. He was surprised to learn it wasn't Ryan to previously left the money for him.

As it turns out, the $250 he gave to the woman is typically money he and his wife save up during the year to give to others in need. All things told, they were now in a much better position than before to do just that.

"He touched a lot of people's lives, that's for sure," said Ryan. "They're a very lovely couple."

The Compass attempted to contact the man in question, but he could not be reached for comment. To respect his privacy, The Compass is not publishing his name.