Payson police are searching for a man who allegedly fled the area in a Veterans Helping Veterans truck with $14,000 he took from a veteran.
Jim Reardon reportedly gained the trust of everyone at Ponderosa Manor Veterans Helping Veterans, a transitional housing facility for veterans and the homeless, on West Wade Lane, before taking off Friday.
Nearly five months ago, Reardon showed up on Ponderosa Manor’s doorstep unannounced. Not a strange sight, given the facility takes in anyone who needs a place to sleep and a meal, said Andrea Russo, the facility’s assistant director.
Over time, Reardon began helping out, fixing things up and helping veterans, she said.
“He seemed like the last of a dying breed,” Russo said. “We had no reason to believe, no inclination we should have to worry about him. He just seemed like an amazing human being.”
When an elderly veteran decided to sell his pickup because he needed the cash and was no longer driving, Reardon offered to get the title, sell it and bring the check back.
On Friday, Dec. 9, Reardon sold the truck at Chapman Auto Center, but instead of returning with the $14,000 check, he allegedly cashed it and took off, said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.
Besides taking the money, Reardon left in Ponderosa Manor’s 2002 Chevy truck used to transport veterans around town.
Russo reported the theft Monday to police. Engler said officers are looking into the incident.
In the meantime, Russo has started her own investigation.
Reardon reportedly said he owned a restaurant in the Key West area for a number of years, however, when Russo called the restaurant earlier this week, no one had heard of him.
Reardon also claimed he played in a world poker tour and had lost his son several years ago. Russo now doubts if anything Reardon said was true.
“He was a con man,” she said.
Just a few weeks ago, Reardon was voted onto the Veterans Helping Veterans board of directors.
“He was a great guy, putting in 12 hours a day,” she said. “He put his heart and soul into the place.”
This is not the first time controversy has swirled around Ponderosa Manor. Russo admits the facility has a stigma associated with it, but she and retired Col. Misty Isley, 87, the home’s director, are working hard to change that.
Veterans Helping Veterans has no official relationship with the Veterans Administration and is entirely funded through donations, Russo said.
Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to contact Det. Mike McAnerny at the Payson Police Department or at (928) Hot-Tips (468-8477).
You can remain anonymous and there may be a reward if an arrest is made due to the information provided, Engler said.