Help Me Recover From Being Scammed

My name is John. I'm 32 years old, and I'm a struggling academic and worker in Frederick, Maryland. I've been unable to find steady full-time employment since I got my degree in criminal justice in December of 2017. I sacrificed everything to get that degree, in the hopes it would help me build a career. I've spent years struggling to make ends meet, keep my bills paid and food on the table.

In an effort to find work and keep myself busy, I entered local community activism in September of 2018. I met a lot of really amazing people in Frederick's community. I jumped right into the NAACP; due to my academic background I'm acutely aware of the racial bias implicit in policing, and I wanted to focus on cleaning up local law enforcement with the Black and Latino communities' lead. I began forming working relationships and friendships with Frederick NAACP, and organizations such as SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice), RISE (Resources for Immigrant Support and Empowerment), and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

These are good people with whom I've done a lot of good work. One of the biggest problems in Frederick County is its sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who I believe is a racist. He fully supports the border wall and the camps that thousands of Latino adults and children are still jailed in. He calls them "criminal illegal aliens". Tens of thousands of Latinos have been deported from Frederick since 2008, since the implementation of the disastrous 287g program, which I've written about extensively. The editor of the local newspaper is friends with the sheriff, and rarely ever allows criticism of Jenkins to be printed. Most of our work has been trying to prevent Jenkins from hurting the undocumented latino communities in Frederick, protesting the shootings of local people by police, holding vigils for the shooting victims, and organizing community seminars against 287g.

This is a good city, full of good people that I really care about. I try my best to help improve Frederick. When covid-19 hit, a lot of people started distributing food, which I've relied upon in order to eat during this virus. Those of us with the least money are of course hit hardest by the economic impact of a pandemic, and covid-19 has basically ruined my life. Covid-19 destroyed most of my job prospects. Because of my cerebral palsy I'm able to receive social security disability payments, but less than $800 a month is nowhere near anything to build a life on. My cerebral palsy also prevents me from doing most jobs. I can't do manual labor. I can pretty much only do office work, or bagging groceries, and with no office jobs really wanting to hire right now, I have no choice but to risk being a cashier at Food Lion, hoping to make money and avoid the coronavirus.

My girlfriend has severe depression, and I've been supporting her as she tries to find a new job and an apartment. Keeping a job is difficult for her because of her depression, and she's currently unable to afford her hormone therapy. I know how difficult it can be with mental health struggles, because I myself have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD from a bad childhood. I can stay medicated pretty easily thanks to my meds being covered by Medicare, but her HRT meds and her antidepressant are hundreds a month, because unfortunately we can't afford insurance for her. As much as I hate to stall or delay her transition, we just can't afford her meds right now.

The virus and its associated economic struggles put me about $3,000 in debt. I'm an active writer, trying to sell articles, movie reviews, game analysis, and funny pieces to websites on the side. But I've only been able to sell one so far. I tried working for a solar company, but neither I nor my girlfriend think I really have the sales "gene" to do that kind of work. I've only had two successful customers working that job for five months. I've pitched over 50 people. I've struggled for most of my life to even understand what I'm good at, and so far it seems that researching and writing are pretty much my skills.

A week ago, I was contacted through Career Builder by a man named Aubrey Garcia, who said he had a job offer for me. He said he was the head of HR for a large biotech company based in Paris, France, called Vivet Therapeutics. He offered me a job as an administrative assistant, with a full corporate benefits package; health, dental, vision, two weeks vacation annually, 401K, the works. He said I would be trained for two weeks, making $25 an hour during the training, $45 an hour after the training was over, with a full 40 hours a week. I leapt at the opportunity, hoping that I had finally found a way out of my crushing debt. I was wrong.

I have never worked corporate before. My job experience has been nothing but government work, community activism, and nonprofit work. I didn't know how the corporate world operates. Mr. Garcia told me in the second week that I needed to purchase office equipment for the job, and I didn't know to be suspicious of that. He sent me a check which I cashed to my checking account, and that was the money with which I was supposed to purchase the equipment from an "outside vendor". I cashed the check, and he told me to do a wire transfer to the account. The wire bounced, and he told me afterward to do a money order to the vendor's mailing address.

I didn't find out until a few days ago from my bank that the check he sent me was bogus. The wire bounced because the account I was trying to send it to wasn't valid. And I woke up the day after I did the money order to a massive negative amount in my account. The bank froze my account, I called them to report fraud, and then I filed a police report. This guy cleaned me out, stealing $2400 from me. If I don't get out of debt, I don't know what's going to happen to me.

I can't afford to pay my bills this month. Please help if you can, please share this as widely as possible if you can't donate. Thank you.


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John Punchak 
Frederick, MD
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