*** Updates below; even more updates on the new post - check out both
. . . if that's his real name - he also goes by "Ramon" and "Lewis Lamont", and has used "Raven" (gee, that's original) with the Pagans he's contacted. He's about 5'10", thin, and has no really identifiable accent. Appearance can vary some; when he was here he had a beard and much longer hair. He carries a small backpack, a duffle bag, a laptop computer showing a Johnston coat of arms.
Other possible identifying info:
- Gives home address as 8733 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046
(this address comes up as business site called Victor Hugo Hair on Godaddy.com)
- Working cell phone (at least as of 12-16-09) is 323-772-6381
- Email given is firstname.lastname@example.org
- Claims birthday is October 13, 1959
- Claims to have roommate named Sheila.
- Smokes cigarettes
- Claims he's dying of AIDS, partner (“Len, from Scotland") died of AIDS two years ago
- Claims to have worked for the Los Angeles County Fire Department as an EMT, and to have had his insurance dropped when he was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. He says that a class-action lawsuit has successfully reinstated insurance for him and others as of Jan 1, 2010
- In about 2004, using the same name and story, called Christian agencies in Columbia, SC, portraying himself as a devoted Christian. He stayed in the Red Roof Inn in St. Andrews at that time. He stayed at the Motel 6 in St. Andrews from Dec 14-17, 2009
- Other business address given is 5230 Pacific Concourse, #320, Los Angeles, CA 90045, Office: (800) 901-2640
We encountered Terry Johnston a few months ago when he contacted Miles asking for help from Carolina Grove. His story was that he was from LA, got stranded here on the east coast, and was trying to get home. He said he was in an advanced AIDS stage, had only a few months to live, and had tried to go home to Baltimore to make amends with his estranged family before he died. Claim was that they had told him to go away, and now he was stuck.
We referred him to NCP COW. Aside from the fact that the Grove isn't incorporated as any legally recognized entity, and that we don't exactly have a "community help fund"**, I found his statements that he had left LA in such a dither to not miss his train that he left his wallet, his cell phone, his money, and everything else behind, and that none of the Charlotte AIDS groups could help him, fishy. If he wasn't legit, and turned out to be some fruitcake, Miles and I wouldn't have as good a legal leg to stand on.
Based on the story that a friend of his in Cali was going to wire him a train ticket the next day, NCP COW was willing to get him a room for the night, and I agreed to drive him to a hotel within walking distance of the Amtrak station.
So then a few weeks later, this email goes out from a friend of ours about this poor gay pagan man who is dying of AIDS is stranded in Columbia, South Carolina, and trying to get home to LA.
I tagged Holli Emore of Cherry Hill Seminary, the person who was heading up a fundraiser to help him, and yep, same guy. She told him she needed to have some kind of ID conformation before she could turn the large wad of cash she'd raised over to him; he bolted. We're not sure where he is now. Charges have been filed against him.
She started doing some digging; turns out this guy has been milking Pagan and Christian help agencies and individuals for almost a decade, and bilked people out of several thousand dollars. He's been spotted in NC, SC, Ohio, Texas, Connecticut, Maryland, and Florida. He's also scammed people as a fake business enterprise in California, to the tune of some $300,000. I'm skeptical about anyone who's had "only a few months to live" for roughly ten years now. Terry claims to have been hospitalized regularly, but he gets angry and confrontational if asked for any verification.
This dirtbag needs to be caught. Other than the outright theft, he's the kind of criminal that makes it harder for people who have real trouble to get any help. He gives the GLBT, Pagan, Christian aid, and HIV/AIDS-survivor communities a bad name. He's been getting his contact information mainly off Witchvox, and from newspapers and local interest publications and public service handouts like Creative Loafing and Q Notes.
Please pass this along. If he contacts you, please contact the local authorities, and send them to me. You can also contact Holli at Sekhmet at osireion dot com. There's a contact table in the right hand bar of this blog that goes directly to my inbox. I can put them in touch with the other people he's gotten money out of for verification of his identity. If you want more evidence to look at, please ask me for it. I'm not going to try to put all the correspondence I have on here; it amounts to several pages worth. I can also forward you to the aforementioned people who've blown the whistle on him, and you can speak with them.
The sad thing is that I've heard from people who've known he was scamming them, but went ahead and helped him out of fear of being labeled homophobic, unchristian, or a "witch war" starter. Horse piddle. A person who steals a group's identity to take advantage of that group does not deserve it's protection or loyalty.
The good side of this is, we've seen firsthand that the Pagan community is willing, even in this economy and with so many out of work, to step up and help someone in a bad spot. These people get applause and salutes for their honest generosity, even if it was misplaced. I've heard people comment that the PHA belief systems are inferior to the Abrahamic faiths because we are selfish and insular, and don't have any mechanisms or even inclination for helping our fellow man. I call BS on that, and I don't want to see the attitude that proves that wrong ruined by a lameass con artist.
****UPDATE: Terry Johnston has been sighted in Indianapolis, IN as of July 20th, 2010, using the usual line, and another time using a different story about staying in a hotel while his house is renovated, and playing a straight guy. Picture submitted by contact:
That's our jackass all right. Thank you, Indianapolis!
** The Grove doesn't collect any money; we pay for everything ourselves. Any donations given for the use of the Unity Center's building are collected on site during the event, and go directly to their office manager.