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‘Bogus beggar’ back at it after prison time

Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 7:09 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - He became known as the “bogus beggar” through his fake panhandling act all over Kentucky.

Gary Thompson was even caught in the act outside of a Lexington police news conference about him.

“I appreciate you guys busting me,” Thompson said. “Y’all really good at it, really good. I average about $100,000 a year doing this.”

He told reporters he used to be a millionaire, receiving $2.5 million in 1993, after being injured in a motorcycle accident.

“Mm, mm, money,” Thompson stammered, then smiled. “I gotta go, y’all, gotta make some money.”

Many times, Thompson vowed to stop faking a mental disability.

“If you can help me whenever I ask for money,” Thompson said, “I won’t act mental.”

I spotted him in 2016 panhandling in Louisville at fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, changing clothes to fit the situation, not needing his wheelchair during timeouts from his act, and then back at it waving down people downtown. When he spotted a guy in a tie he saw a potential pay day. But it was me wearing a hidden camera.

“Please help, fell out my wheelchair today,” Thompson said. “All my coins, somebody take it. Need bus fare get back home.”

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.

“Hit by truck,” Thompson said. “But I no hurt that bad.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“My name Gary Davis,” Thompson said. “Nice to meet you.”

When I pulled out another camera, everything changed.

“You’re really Gary Thompson,” I said. “My name is John Boel with WAVE. I’ve been watching you. You’re the bogus beggar guy who makes $100,000 a year, right? You’re able to change your voice. I’ve seen all the stories on you.”

“That’s a lie,” he said.

“I noticed your speech got a little better just now,” I said.

“That’s a lie,” Thompson said. “I never asked them nothing. I go to Churchill Downs.”

“Gary, I know what your deal is,” I said. “Let’s be real, OK?”

“I not doing no deal here,” Thompson said. “Camera off. I don’t want to be on it.”

“Is it true you burned through $2.5 million in a motorcycle crash?” I asked. Thompson shook his head yes.

“I don’t want to be on camera,” Thompson said. “I break it.”

“Don’t you feel bad doing this when there are real people out here?” I asked.

“I’m not faking nothing,” he said.

After that confrontation, and other reports on Thompson, the “bogus beggar” became internationally infamous. It all caught up with him when federal investigators found out because they can do something about it when they get duped. Thompson pleaded guilty to falsely representing his mental condition in order to collect $106,000 in disability and Medicaid benefits over four years. But the 27 months in prison recommended in the plea agreement weren’t enough for the judge, who tacked on another 15, for a total of 42 months.

He’s out now and guess what he was doing? I’ve been following him around Louisville where he’s doing the same thing. Same spots, same stores, same routine. So I went undercover and walked past him while he was working people for money around convenience store gas pumps.

“My would like a big red and $2 for bus fare please,” Thompson asked me from his wheelchair.

“$2 for bus fare?” I asked.

“$1.50 there and $1.50 back,” he said. “So that makes 2 dollars right? How much that equals?”

“Three dollars,” I said. The mental disability act changed when he recognized who he was talking to.

“Are you Gary?” I asked.

“Are you John Boel?” He answered.

“Yes,” I said, while pulling out another camera.

“You’re still faking your condition,” I said. “Embellishing your condition.”

“I’m not,” Thompson said.

“When I first walked up on you, you had your voice changed,” I said.

“Yeah I have different personalities the doctor tells me,” Thompson said.

After contending he has multiple personalities, Thompson started showing physical problems right there.

“That’s a muscle spasm,” he said. “That’s a muscle spasm. I can walk a little bit.” He showed me the physical problems he claims to have. But I kept going back to his intellectual ability.

“What do you say to people who say you didn’t learn anything in prison?” I said. “You’re still faking your condition.”

“They’re liars,” Thompson said. “I’m not faking my condition."

”Isn’t that what you were convicted of?" I said. “Faking your condition? Getting government money?”

“That’s what I pled guilty yes,” he said. “I’m not faking any condition. My whole left side is paralyzed."

”You’ve seen the video over in Lexington," I said. “You’re laughing about it, saying ‘I make $100,000 a year. I can change my voice,’ which we’ve seen you do.”

“But I am disabled John, mentally and physically,” Thompson said after a long pause.

“How long have you been in Louisville?” I asked.

“About a month,” he said.

“What are you going to do next?” I asked.

“Try to get a job somewhere,” Thompson said. “Do the right thing and straighten my life up. I’m homeless now. I’m not a bogus beggar. I don’t have anything. I wasn’t bogus before. That’s all I have to say to you; have a good day.”

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