DECATUR, Ala. — The young man had a compelling story: His father died in the 9/11 terror attacks, his mother had just one leg, he had no other living relatives and he was stranded in Alabama with no way to make the nearly 600-mile (965-kilometer) trip home to Indiana after being robbed.
Moved to help, police officers from six agencies gave him food, money and a connection for a ride back north.
It was only later, police said, that they discovered much of the man’s tale was fiction: His name was fake, both his parents are alive, his mom has both legs, and there were several other relatives. But no charges are planned after what police described as a good-faith effort to help someone in need went awry.
“Regardless of the situation, he was stranded and didn’t have anybody. In that regard, we were happy to help get him him back up there,” Mike Swafford, a spokesman for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office, which initially shared the story on Facebook, said a man claiming to be Willinaus Bolin, 23, of Indianapolis told police in Montgomery that he was on the way to Florida with friends when they pushed him out of the car, robbed him of money he made mowing lawns and left him with nothing over the Fourth of July weekend.
A Montgomery police officer took the man about 80 miles (129 kilometers) to a Waffle House restaurant in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills. Police there tried to get him a flight home, but none was available. So officers from different agencies kept giving him rides north toward home.
A Vestavia Hills officer took the man to Fultondale, and an officer there drove him to Cullman, about 40 more miles. Sheriff’s deputies from Cullman, Morgan and Limestone also helped out, and a truck driver finally took over for police in Nashville, Tennessee, for the final leg of the trip to Indianapolis.
The story began traveling around social media, and Swafford said police soon started hearing from relatives of the man, who turned out to actually be Sangre Bolin, the brother of Willinaus Bolin. Relatives told officers that the claims about the man’s father dying on Sept. 11, 2001, and his mother having only one leg weren’t true, Swafford said.
Neither Sangre Bolin, 29, nor his brother immediately responded to messages sent through Facebook.
Breezy Stamps, a sister of Sangre Bolin, told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis that he has autism and mental health problems and likely gave police the wrong name because he violated a home detention order by leaving. Sangre Bolin has been arrested multiple times in Marion County, Indiana, on charges including fraud, WHNT-TV reported.
Swafford said the man really was broke, but authorities don’t know exactly how he got to Alabama or whether he was robbed. Police had no way of knowing whether any of his story was true since he had no identification and gave them a name that checked out as real, he said.
While officers gave the man a little cash and bought him a few meals along the way, Swafford said, no one has announced plans to file charges.
“We give courtesy rides all the time; all law enforcement does that,” Swafford said. “We’re traveling those roads anyway. Granted this had more of a concentrated, coordinated effort.”