Glendale police say more than $18,000 in donations have poured in for an 81-year-old waitress who lost her life savings to an overseas scam.
Checks for Glendale resident Antonia Becerra — a waitress for 44 years at the landmark French restaurant Taix in Los Angeles — have continued to swamp the Police Department headquarters, her home and workplace.
“I am so grateful to all of them because I can see people care and that's wonderful,” Becerra said.
She has continued to work after being conned out her savings, but has continued to receive checks from donors, some from as far away as New York.
Becerra was conned out of at least $40,000 this year after scam artists convinced her that she won $2 million and a new Mercedes, Glendale police said.
To secure the cash and car prizes, she transferred the money to the scam operation, which also swindled her out of her car by convincing her to sell it and to send the proceeds.
The more money Becerra sent, the more they demanded until she ran out of her life savings. She put the estimated losses higher, at between $60,000 and $65,000.
Police said the scammers have been tracked to Nigeria and Jamaica, but Becerra's money almost surely will never be recovered.
The scam put Becerra behind on a couple of bills, but police are trying to help her get situated, Det. Jason Ross said. Police set up a donation account for her and have been collecting donations for nearly two weeks.
In that time, the public — particularly the service industry — has rallied behind her.
The Famous, a downtown Glendale bar on South Brand Boulevard, is also planning to host a sponsored event for Becerra on Nov. 12, when a portion of bar sales will be donated to her, as well as proceeds from a silent auction.
Luke Leonard, the bar's general manager, also plans to donate a baseball signed by former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin and will offer a date with one of his single bartenders for the auction.
Becerra's story was struck a chord with staffers at the Famous “because we are all in the service industry” and know how challenging it can be, he said.
“It broke our hearts,” Leonard said.
Members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 in Glendale began collecting funds for Becerra nearly two weeks ago and raised $1,300, said Trevor Gonzalves, station electrician and operator.
Having to face a whole new set of financial challenges at Becerra's age even prompted some union members who themselves had received layoff notices to still donate money, he said.
“She is a hardworking American who worked her whole life,” Gonzalves said.
The Glendale Police Officers' Assn. has set up a fund for Antonia Becerra. To donate, visit http://glendalepoa.com.
Anyone interested in contributing to the Famous' silent auction may call Luke Leonard at (818) 241-2888.