A widely-viewed online video in which a homeless man takes $100 he’d been gifted and proceeds to feed other homeless people in the area is fake, the homeless man’s brother told CBS2 News.
YouTube personality and prankster Josh Paler Lin posted the video to his channel shortly before Christmas. In it, Lin gives a homeless man named Thomas $100 and then purportedly follows him around to see how the man spends the money. Thomas enters a liquor store and emerges with two black plastic bags, then proceeds to a local park to hand out food to other supposedly homeless people.
Lin then confronts Thomas, telling him his actions with the money astounded him. The filmmaker gives Thomas an extra $100, and wishes him well.
Lin also launched an Indiegogo fundraising page for the man, called “Help Thomas to Get a Fresh Start!” which had collected nearly $134,000, with 20 days remaining in the campaign.
Now, Thomas’ brother has confirmed that the video, which had been viewed 29 million times as of Thursday afternoon, was staged.
Kevin Nickel, identified by CBS2 as Thomas’ brother, told the outlet that his brother is really homeless, but that the video was a fake. He said his brother’s real name is Kenny Nickel, and that he in fact does have some money, as he is owed $150,000 from his parents’ estate.
“He’s sitting on money,” Nickel told CBS2. “But this is a scam. This money needs to go to people who really need it.”
Another man told CBS2 he witnessed the filming of the video, and that it was indeed staged. Taugan Kadalim said he saw Thomas in Lin’s car between shots.
“I was there,” Taugan Kadalim said. “They didn’t ‘follow’ him. They drove him there [to the liquor store]. I think the manner in how they portrayed the entire video is deceitful and dishonest.”
CBS reports that Lin made an estimated $52,000 from the hits he received on the video, not counting the Indiegogo campaign money.