Deadbeat or just dead?
A group of friends claim that a former pal who lives in Mexico owes them money, so as payback for not paying them back, they agreed to a bizarre revenge scheme: They sent his photo via social media to companies and agencies dealing with terrorist attacks, claiming that he may be among the victims.
The photo of the unidentified man has been featured in breaking news stories about the Orlando gay club shooting, the Istanbul airport bombing and the EgyptAir crash last month, according to France24.
“Help, my brother Alfonso was at [Ataturk] Airport, and we don’t know anything about him, please help #turkey,” @marty_batato tweeted, along with the man’s photo.
The photo started getting people’s attention, and some media outlets noted that the image was first posted from accounts based in Mexico.
France24 reported that it reached out to the Twitter users who first posted the photo, who said they had shared the photo because the subject had cheated them out of money adding up to around $1,000.
“This man used to be my friend, but he’s cheated money out of at least four people who I know,” one of the pranksters, who remained anonymous, told the news website. “I lodged both civil and criminal complaints against him, but because the legal proceedings are dragging on and he still hasn’t given us back our money, we decided to punish him by posting his photo online. Our goal is to ruin his reputation. We want the whole world to recognize his face.”
The “victim,” which France24 decided not to identify, said he is very much alive although furious that people think he may have been killed several times over.
“My photo is everywhere because of someone who started it as a prank after a legal dispute,” he told the site. “I never reported the people who did this to me because, in Mexico, nothing ever happens in these kind of cases.”
He said he contacted the BBC and the New York Times – both of which used the image in their coverage of the Orlando massacre – to have the photo removed, but never heard back. The New York Times video in which it appeared has been corrected and the photo removed.
“An image of a man shown at the 2:24 mark of a previous version of this video has been removed,” the video now reads just before the credits roll. “After the video’s publication, information came to light questioning whether the man was a victim, and his status could not be confirmed.”