LIES, DECEPTION AND ALLEGED HOAXES,
ON ABC NEWS� �20/20,� FRIDAY, JULY 21
�20/20� reports on some recent elaborate, sensational alleged hoaxes and those accused of contriving them, including a woman � and her husband � who, authorities say, duped an entire community into believing she was pregnant with sextuplet babies to collect thousands of dollars in donations. Also, did a dying teenager suffering from AIDS really exist, or was this a long-running hoax that played on the emotions of hundreds of people? �20/20� airs on FRIDAY, JULY 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Deborah Roberts reports on a cruel hoax that played on a community�s sense of trust and generosity. Last winter 45-year-old Sarah Everson made a surprising -- and untrue -- announcement that she was pregnant with not one but six babies. As the news spread, people began donating money to Sarah and her husband, Kris, a cash-strapped couple having trouble paying the rent. They maintained the ruse when, in March, they announced the babies� births, and that they were in intensive care. Soon churches and charities began donating baby gifts, community leaders opened a bank account and a website was created. After they gave a newspaper interview about the sextuplets, they ultimately were arrested.
In her first primetime interview, Sarah tells Roberts that she did nothing wrong. She claims she suffered from a psychological disorder and actually thought she was pregnant. She also says they never sought donations but got caught up in other people�s enthusiasm over the prospect of sextuplets. �People latched onto it and ran with it� It wasn�t something that we� we did to get ahead so we can get out and party,� she says. Kris and Sarah were arrested and charged with a felony, stealing by deceit, and have pled not guilty. Their trial is pending.
Also: Elizabeth Vargas reports that a movie slated for release early next month is likely to rekindle controversy about what may or may not have been a tremendous hoax. �The Night Listener� has been called a �haunting mystery of the heart.� But unlike most thrillers, the author of this yarn says it�s inspired by things that really happened. At the center of this mystery is a 14-year-old boy who in 1993 wrote an autobiography about his struggle with AIDS. Over the years, the teen spent hours talking with friends and supporters over the phone, including San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin. Maupin thought he had been speaking with both the teen and his adoptive mother. But when a movie deal fell apart because no one from the studio was allowed to meet the teen, Maupin began to wonder whether the teen actually existed. Vargas explores the underlying mystery and talks to Maupin and the stars of the upcoming movie, including Robin Williams. �The mystery continues, and this is the longest running hoax, as far as I�m concerned, in literary history,� Maupin tells Vargas.
And: Psychic powers or hoaxing powers? Going to a psychic takes trust to begin with, so how do you truly know if you are being had? ABC News Correspondent Don Dahler reports on a self-proclaimed gypsy psychic named Ann Marie who, police say, used her hoaxing powers to scam many people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jackie, a 36-year-old divorced mother of two, opens up about being duped by Ann Marie, handing over large amounts of cash and even an expensive watch � all because she believed in the pseudo psychic�s quick-fix miracle powers.
Also: Hoaxing: It�s one of the oldest games people play � we are not who we seem to be. People have been playing it for sex, power, ego and money for centuries. So why is it sometimes so easy to play with the truth, and what are the classic ingredients of a successful hoax? To find out, Bob Brown looks at notorious hoaxes.
�20/20� is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer.