LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - So convincing, he cashes in on compassion. So bold, he got caught in his fake act outside of a Lexington Police press conference - about him.
"I appreciate you guys busting me," said Gary Thompson to reporters last year in Lexington. "Y'all really good at it, really good. I average about $100,000 a year doing this."
He told reporters then that he used to be a millionaire, receiving $2,500,000 in 1993 after being injured in a motorcycle crash. But he does not act mentally handicapped when he wants to. "If you can help me whenever I ask for money I won't act mental," Thompson said.
"M, m, money," Thompson slurred, then smiled, "I gotta go y'all, gotta make some money."
Thompson has been jailed and chased all over Kentucky and was last seen in Cincinnati.
Guess where I spotted him recently?
Downtown Louisville. Aggressively panhandling at store entrances like McDonalds and Thorntons, or waving down people on Broadway. I recorded him clowning around, not wheelchair bound, on the WAVE 3 News station property.
He changed clothes often to fit the situation.
A lot of the times he had help by people who wheeled him into position.
One day I recorded his group buying and selling small white pills or rocks, then walk to the nearest overpass and disappeared out of sight.
While I was following him, he started following me when he saw a guy in a tie.
"Please help, fell out of my wheelchair today, all my coins, somebody take it," Thompson said. "Need bus fare get back home."
I asked him what was wrong.
"Hit by truck 9-year-old, but I no hurt that bad, left side," he said.
I asked him his name.
"Gary Davis, nice to meet you," he said.
Then I pulled out a real camera and started recording.
"You're really Gary Thompson," I said. "My name is John Boel with WAVE, been watching you. You're the bogus beggar guy who makes $100,000 a year right? Yeah you are, got a degree in speech pathology, able to change your voice. I've seen all the stories on you."
"That's a lie," he said. "I don't want to be on camera. I never ask them nothing I going to Churchill Downs."
I told him he could be straight with me because I know his deal.
"Not doing no deal," he said. "Put me off camera don't want to be on camera. I don't do nothing wrong."
I asked him if it's true he burned through a $2,500,000 judgment in a lawsuit. He nodded yes, then said, "Not burn. Don't want to be on camera. I break it."
I asked him if he feels bad faking this act when there are people around him who are really suffering.
"I not faking nothing," he said.
He smiled and winked at me after I turned off both cameras. That confrontation, and his panhandling, all went on right in front of a police officer. Then Gary boarded a bus to move on to his next act.