Friday, July 15, 2011

Con Artists - Part I

My life changed on Sunday night and not for the good. If efforts to explain this story…I’m going to give it a timeline.

Sunday, 3:30ish
My father called Claire’s (my younger sister) boyfriend, Mark, and asked him if he could borrow $600. Mark declined and so my dad called my younger sister who agreed to give him the money no questions asked. It wasn’t until my sister and Mark were on their way to dinner that night that Mark told Claire what my Dad had done and then she alerted the family.

Sunday, 6:30ish
Claire calls to tell me that my Dad has admitted to having a gambling problem and was asking for money from Mark. Because this is so out of left field, I question her judgement and call my other two sisters Jennifer and Sarah (there are four of us total) to see what they think. After a conference call (we all live in different cities now), it was decided that I, being the oldest, would drive the hour drive to confront Dad face to face.

Sunday, 9:00 pm
Arrive at my parent’s home to confront my Dad to see why he is gambling. He admits then that it has been going on for a few months and he has depleted my parents’ emergency fund ($12,000). Watching my mother’s face when she heard this news is heart wrenching and a scene that plays over and over in my head. Insert a good bit of screaming on my mother’s part and Claire’s. Amazingly, I remained pretty calm and acted like a therapist for the rest of the night. Probably still in shock since the couple that gave me Dave Ramsey’s book actually never abided by its principals and it became abundantly clear that night. I think I slept an hour that night.

Monday Morning
My mother finds out that my father did not tell the truth on Sunday as the total is close to $18,000 not $12,000 and he left her with $15.00 in the bank account until payday. My sisters and I being the process of divide and conquer as I take on the role of finding him counseling, Claire takes on the role of trying to figure out where Dad is gambling at, Jennifer takes on the role of supporting Mom and Sarah tries to help with finances. I would like to take a moment and thank Gamblers Anonymous as their staff was extremely helpful because I at this time was frankly overwhelmed.

Monday Afternoon
I have a meeting via the phone with Heidi at Gamblers Anonymous and learn all the steps that we as a family need to set in place so my Dad doesn’t relapse. She suggested that we all get credit reports done to see if he took out any credit cards in our names as well as some other helpful tips. The whole time I’m on the phone, I keep thinking this is not my Dad. He doesn’t act like this, he’s my hero and how did we all miss the signs.

Monday Evening
Since we’re not sure who my Dad is talking to place his bets, Claire gets the great idea to take Dad’s phone and look through his messages and contacts. That’s when the s*%^ hit the fan. My father was not gambling, instead he was giving his money to another woman who is four years younger than me. When my dad realizes that his phone is missing and it becomes clear that we know about India, he sits my mother down to tell her the truth.

Last fall, my parents decided to sell their older vehicles in order to pay off more of their debt which is a move that I supported. One of my Dad’s former employees decided to buy the car but didn’t have all the money upfront. This is where India enters the picture as she pays some of the debt down and then a few weeks later goes to my Dad for money to help with rent, doctor bills, etc and it simply got “out of control” to the tune of $18,000.

While this is going on, Claire drives the iPhone over to my home and we realize that my Dad is not telling us the whole story. India meets a boy name Ben during the last four months who is a criminal (his rap sheet is insane) and somehow India talks my Dad into helping to pay Ben’s court fees.

Yes – that’s where the money went. Not to gambling, not to help his wife, not to help youngest daughters with their weddings or improve his home. Nope – it went to two very good con artists.

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