Forty-one-year-old Alan Farha, a native of Dallas, Texas, told church-goers in Cedar Rapids his family had been killed by a roadside bomb in Syria and he needed money to fly home. It’s a story he’s used elsewhere recently. He was arrested in Milwaukee a year ago after scamming some Catholic churches there. A few months before that, he was convicted and placed on five years probation for a con of church-goers in Rochester.
He’s used a variety of down-on-his luck stories and been charged with scams in New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia, Illinois and Missouri, too. Back in 2008, in the Columbia, Missouri area, he conned 17 churches, dozens of people and a few businesses out of at least $10,000. The Columbia Tribune reports a group of pastors in St. Paul, Minnesota, were so concerned by his activity there more than a decade ago, they bought him a one-way bus ticket to Pennsylvania.
Last week, Cedar Rapids Police had warned churches that Farha was attending services in the area and trying to scam people. He is being held in the Linn County Jail, on a theft charge.