3 ON YOUR SIDE: Robbing Peter to pay Paul - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

3 ON YOUR SIDE: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - What would you do if someone offered to help pay your bills or get rid of debt, with no strings attached? Sounds too good to be true, right? Police say one Cleveland woman was doing just that, helping complete strangers. The only problem is, she was using stolen money to help others.

Channel 3 first heard about April Swafford last week. Someone called the Channel 3 newsroom to let us know a kind woman in Cleveland was helping people pay their bills, no questions asked. So we reached out to her. The next thing we knew, Cleveland Police were asking for our help to track her down.

If you take a look at April Swafford's Facebook page, there are some red flags. She claims to be a 'CEO at Target' and a 'Vice President at Publix.' Posts from strangers cover her page with messages like this one: "Just wanted to say thank you for helping us...you were definitely God sent!"

"Innocent victim's routing numbers were taken and used to pay bills and other debts that people owed," says Cleveland Police Detective Matt Jenkins.

Jenkins says Swafford is no good samaritan. She posted this status to her page February 23: "Anyone need bills paid?" She then posted a routing and account number and said, "Please pay whatever you want out of it. Thanks."

"This suspect has a personal vendetta against my victim," says Jenkins.

Jenkins says at the beginning of the year Swafford got a hold of a man's banking information. It just so happens he receives financial help from a state agency and she got a hold of that bank account info too.

"She was actually bouncing off both accounts at the same. She was ripping...there was thousands of dollars coming out both ways," he says.

More than $20,000 worth of stranger's bills were paid.

"It's kind of strange. Usually people do this sort of thing for financial gain."

And there were hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments that did not process once police got involved. 

"The people on the back end, where it's bouncing and coming back and they get their stuff turned off, they're in the same boat they were in when they were begging for help in the first place," says Jenkins.

One woman tells Channel 3 she was expecting Swafford to pay her mortgage this month.

Before investigators were on her trail, Channel 3 asked Swafford why she was 'helping' so many strangers. She said,"I believe in helping others in their difficult times."

We tried messaging her again now that she is wanted, but go no response.

"I guess that's my job at this point, to prove her innocence or guilt. And I have my doubts at this point," says Jenkins.

Police say this is an example of why you need to pay close attention to your banking statements. They say dishonest people can easily obtain a check with an account and routing number.

Swafford has denied all the allegations to police. She was supposed to meet Detective Jenkins Wednesday but never showed. If Swafford has contacted you in any way offering to help pay your bills, or if you know where she is, call Cleveland Police.
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