TOOELE COUNTY, Utah -- When he saw a post on Facebook, asking for donations for two children who lost their father in the Las Vegas massacre, Bryan De Laney, who moonlights as Santa, could not resist the urge to help.
“I’ve experienced some loss this year, and over the years we’ve experienced some pretty severe loss, so I thought we needed to help the kids and wife out,” De Laney said.
The post on the Tooele County 411 page came from a woman named Whitney. It said she was trying to make Christmas happen for the boys who recently moved to Tooele after losing their father.
De Laney responded to Whitney’s post and after conversing with her, bought nearly $400 worth of clothing and toys she said the boys needed.
“I bought two tricycles, two action figures from the Kong movie, two little dump trucks full of Legos, two outfits each with a pair of shoes, a little art easel and some Hot Wheels cars,” De Laney said.
De Laney, who works as a Santa Claus at holiday gatherings, delivered the items to Whitney on Christmas Eve.
“I was actually Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and they scammed me,” De Laney said. “They took the stuff thinking it was going to go to two little kids who needed it.”
He realized he had fallen victim to a scam on Christmas Day when he tried to contact Whitney on Facebook and discovered she blocked him. He then posted about his experience on the Tooele County 411 Facebook page and believes Whitney's story was a fabrication.
Michelle Sutton saw De Laney's post and realized she too, fell for Whitney’s story.
“She said she was worried because nobody had donated anything,” Sutton said when describing her initial conversations with Whitney.
Sutton said she's upset someone would take advantage of holiday kindness from others.
“I am always willing to help people and that broke my heart knowing that there was going to be two little boys that didn’t have Christmas,” Sutton said.
KSTU went to the address where De Laney and Sutton delivered their items, but no one answered the door. Whitney has not responded to a voice mail left at the number she gave to Sutton.
KSTU reported Wednesday Whitney was detained, questioned by police and released. Police told KSTU charges will likely be filed, at which time she'd be taken into custody.
De Laney said he’ll still donate in the future, but will be more vigilant to make sure his donations actually go to people in need.