Pretend Radio

Pretend Radio

By Creative Babble

Pretend Radio is a documentary-style podcast about real people pretending to be someone else. I interview con artists, snake oil salesmen, undercover FBI agents—pretty much anyone living a lie.


S311: The Prophet – Matthew Fenner vs. the Word of Faith Fellowship Part 2

What does being gay mean at the Word of Faith Fellowship? Let’s say a man speaks to another man. Perhaps he looks at him for too long or laughs at his joke. That’s gay. Maybe you’re standing too close. It doesn’t matter. If I’m a Word of Faith fellowship member and I think you’re gay—then you’re gay. I don’t have to prove it–I know it. And I can’t let you suffer from those gay demons. I have to pray for you to release the gay spirits out of you. And the way we pray at the Word of Faith Fellowship is through loud prayers. And it’s not only me praying over you—Sussie, Bobby, and Roger will join in. Soon, you’ll have 20 to 30 people screaming at you. And like Jane says, “people can get carried away.” So, it’s easy to imagine this prayer becoming more than a loud scream. I might hold on to your shoulders and give you a gentle tug. Then, I might punch you in the chest. Maybe my hands creep further up, and before I realize it, I’m wrapping my fingers around your neck.   This hypothetical scenario I painted for you is exactly what Matthew Fenner says happened to him.   Release the gay demons Tonight, it’s Matthew Fenner’s turn to receive an exorcism. Church ministers are praying over him. They’re trying to release the devil’s grip over his homosexual desires.   Danielle Cordes was there the night. She says Brooke Covington, Jane’s so-called adopted daughter, was the one calling the shots. People who know Brooke’s style of worship say that she doesn’t have time to deal with your devils. So when it’s time to pray over you, it’s going to hurt. Brooke barks at Danielle and demands her to join in.   “Brooke was the one coaching them through it,” explained Danielle. She says she too participated in the prayer. “I never slapped him or did any of that. I had my arm on him, but if I had like, I don’t know, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.”   The case against Brooke Covington and the Word of Faith Fellowship The night after the alleged attack, Matthew Fenner escaped the Word of Faith Fellowship. He went straight to the police and filed a report. Unfortunately for him, the authorities were only willing to file misdemeanor charges. It will take years for actual criminal charges to be filed. To give you an idea, this beating allegedly took place in January 2013. Matthew was 19 at the time. He’s 25 years old now. That’s almost 5 years and there’s still no resolution to this case.   What happens next? This is the final installment of season 3 The Prophet. This might be the last episode of this series, but the story is far from over. To keep up with this story, follow John Huddle’s blog andCitizens against corruption and abuse on Facebook.
19/12/1834m 43s

S310: The Prophet - Matthew Fenner vs. the Word of Faith Fellowship Part 1

  Who will take over the Word of Faith Fellowship when Jane Whaley is gone? Jane Whaley recently turned 80-years-old. Obviously, the Word of Faith Fellowship can’t go on forever. At least not the way we know of it today. So, who’s taking over? Can it go on without Jane Whaley’s vision and authority? Or will it all just fall apart?   John Huddle, a former member, says that Jane’s biological daughter Robin Webster is believed to take over the church. But he suspects that, when Jane Whaley dies, there will be a power struggle within the church.   I have a similar theory. I believe there’s someone else who is fit to replace Jane. She is equally feared and has Jane’s ferocious aggressiveness. She even kind of looks like a younger Jane. Her name is Brooke Covington.   Brooke Covington - Word of Faith Fellowship   Jane Whaley can’t live forever. Brooke Covington just seems like the natural successor. But there’s a problem with this theory. Brooke can’t take over the Word of Faith Fellowship if she’s sitting in jail. Brooke Covington is accused of leading an attack on a 19-year-old man in order to free him from homosexual demons. She and four other ministers were indicted on charges of kidnapping and assault. They’re currently awaiting trial.   The case against the Word of Faith Fellowship We’ll talk more about this alleged attack in the next episode. Today, we’re going to focus on how we got to this point. Before Brooke Covington was charged with kidnapping and beating Matthew Fenner, she was actually the person who recruited him into the church. How did she go from being his spiritual leader, to being charged with beating him? In order to understand the case against Brooke Covington and the Word of Faith Fellowship ministries, you first understand how Matthew Fenner joined the church.   Cults recruit the vulnerable The biggest questions I get all the time is, how do people get sucked into a cult. Everyone says that they would never fall for it, so how did Matthew and his family become one of them?   Before Matthew Fenner joined the Word of Faith Fellowship, he thought they were freaks. He heard rumors of the demonic possessions and members vomiting in buckets to evil spirits. Let’s just say that he wasn’t exactly a perfect candidate. And on top of that, Matthew was openly gay and considered himself an atheist. So, how does someone like him get sucked into a ultra conservative Christian cult?   The Word of Faith Fellowship found Matthew Fenner, and his family, when there were at their lowest point. Matthew’s family rejected his sexuality, his mother was in a bad marriage, and they were running out of money. These were desperate times.   Matthew attended his first service in February 2010. During this time he had friends, was a member of a dance troupe, and attended public school. By December of that same year, he cut ties with everyone he knew, quit dance, and enrolled in the church’s private school. How did it happen? How can someone go from gay atheist to a god-fearing cult member? Matthew Fenner describes his journey into the Word of Faith Fellowship. Listen to episode 10 of the Prophet on Apple podcast, Google Play, Spotify, or Stitcher.
12/12/1829m 36s

S309: The Prophet - Inside the Mind of Jane Whaley

Christina Bryant is about to go face-to-face with the real Jane Whaley. In my previous episode, I got to see the political side of Jane—the Jane she wanted the world to meet. Christina, on the other hand, is about to talk with the real Jane Whaley—the one everyone fears. And she got it all on tape.   Christina Bryant went undercover inside the Word of Faith Fellowship. She's wearing a hidden microphone. It's been 6 years since she last step foot in the church. You see, Christina is a former member who has been excommunicated and is forbidden to contact her family. If she ever wants to ever speak with them again, she has to go through Jane Whaley first.   This 3-hour recording is completely engrossing. However, there are certain parts of this tape that brings up interesting legal questions regarding child abuse. Jane flat out says she’s not required by law to report sexual abuse because of pastor confidentiality. Is this true? How can this be true? Jane also claims if a child has bruising, the NC Department of Social Services doesn’t consider that abuse.   I reached out to my friend Rabia Chaudry from the Undisclosed Podcast for help. She put me in touch with her co-host Colin Miller, to walk me through what Jane says and how it applies to North Carolina law. I have to say, I’m shocked.   I also spoke with NC licensed attorney Paul Ditz. He’s one of the few attorney’s to have ever questioned Jane Whaley on the stand. He tells me that just because DSS allows minor bruising and Jane is protected by penitent privilege, doesn’t mean that she’s not responsible.   Take a deep breath because you’re about to go inside the mind of Jane Whaley.     Sources: NC Article 7 - Competency of Witnesses Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in North Carolina Parental Discipline: When Is It Abuse and/or a Crime? A&E Documentary on the Word of Faith Fellowship titled "The Devil Next Door" postponed     Disclaimer: I should mention that we’re going to talk about sexual and child abuse and if this is too close to home, you may want to skip this one.   This episode was edited by Logan Castrodale. Our theme music is by Joe Basile with Other music provided by Blue Dot Sessions.  
05/12/1846m 5s

S308: The Prophet - Meet Jane Whaley Part 3

The world first learned about the Word of Faith Fellowship after an Inside Edition exposé  in 1995. The investigation, led by the Trinity Foundation, revealed accusations of abuse within the church.  Watch the Inside Edition story: Jane Whaley's quiet little kingdom was suddenly in the spotlight. Hidden cameras captured Jane's signature screaming prayer. Church members told Inside Edition that they would strap children to chairs so they wouldn't run away. It was horrifying. After a brief press conference, Jane Whaley never spoke to the media on the record ever again. So why did she pick me as her first interview since 1995? I asked Jane, "Why me?" She told me that God spoke to her after listening to my show. But why now? Jane says she wanted to contact me but said that she didn’t know how to reach me. During my visit, Sam Whaley told me that the closest they’ve come to talking to the media was when a BBC producer approached her about doing a story. She said he was very nice, just like me. But in the end, they decided it wasn’t right. Then, an A&E documentary crew asked to interview Jane and bring cameras into the church. Jane flat out said no because they weren’t interested in the truth. Her lawyers told me that the TV crew and former members showed up unannounced to church member owned businesses and caused a spectacle.  My interview with cult leader Jane Whaley of the Word of Faith Fellowship After the 3-hour service was over, Jane and I walked back to her office. Jane Whaley sat next to me. To my left sat her husband Sam Whaley. And across the room sat her two attorneys Mark Norris and Josh Farmer. Without ever even asking a question, Jane began to tell me about every controversial issue facing the church. She told me that she knows nothing about unemployment (Jane's referring to the recent the guilty pleas in the unemployment fraud cases.) When I asked her about the Brazilian slaves, she told me that some of the Brazilian's making these claims are entitled and lazy. During the meeting, Jane performed a blasting prayer for me. She also told me that she's gearing for a great confrontation and that they're ready for the end of times.   National Domestic Violence Hotline I also want to take the time to thank the former members who have listened to the show and have written me emails, facebook messages about their experience at the Word of Faith Fellowship. It just reinforces that what I’m doing is important.   Also, I know there are current members reading this right now. If you feel you’re in danger or just need someone to talk to, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help you find a place to stay near Spindale while you figure things out. Or you can contact the Citizens against corruption and abuse at area code 828-289-7923. Promos Southern Gothic Minds of Madness  
14/11/1843m 44s

S307: The Prophet - Meet Jane Whaley Part 2

Previously on Pretend Radio, I came face-to-face with pastor Jane Whaley of the Word of Faith Fellowship. When I arrived, we met in her office for a few minutes before the church service began. I was surprised by everyone's friendliness. Suddenly, the music started playing and we knew it was time to head into the main sanctuary. Jane Whaley held my hand as we walked down a long hallway towards the service. As we inched closer to the sanctuary, the music got louder and louder—it was ear drum busting loud. Jane and I walked in like rock stars. Her attorney escorted me to the second row behind Jane and her husband Sam Whaley. Word of Faith Fellowship sanctuary in Spindale, North Carolina Was the church service real or just a big show? The service started around 9:30am and ended around 12:30pm. It was a musical event filled with praise and worship. Old women were jumping up and down in their high heels, old men were singing as loud as they could, and the children appeared to be happy. Former members say that this is exactly what Jane Whaley wanted me to see. According to them, this service was tailored specifically for me.   Bonus episode: Why did Paul McCartney's drummer join a cult?   Joe English played drums with Paul McCartney and Wings. Today, he's a devoted member at the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, North Carolina. I met Joe English during my visit. Hear how Jane Whaley saved him from a life of drugs and rock n' roll. Listen to this exclusive Patreon episode.    
07/11/1851m 18s

S306: The Prophet - Meet Jane Whaley Part 1

As far as I know, I'm the first journalist who has ever interviewed pastor Jane Whaley. Heck, I might be the only member of the media to have attended church service. How was I able to pull this off? The short answer is, I have no idea. In fact, when the executive producer of the upcoming A&E series on Word of Faith Fellowship found out about my exclusive interview, he gave me a call. He asked me, "I just want to know one thing... how did you do it?" I told him, "I just asked nicely?" Here's the promo for the A&E docu-series titled, "The Devil Next Door." Word of Faith guest gets charged with trespassing While scanning through research documents, I stumbled upon on an email I had not seen before. It was from democratic North Carolina state senate candidate David Wheeler to Jane Whaley. In that email, David Wheeler requested a meeting with Jane Whaley. Oddly enough she responds, “Can you meet between 3:30 and 4:00 this afternoon?” The state senate candidate confirms the meeting with Jane. What happens next is kind of messed up. Instead of showing up alone, David Wheeler arrives at the Word of Faith Fellowship compound with a several news reporters and a cameraman. He also brought John Huddle who is basically Jane Whaley’s arch enemy. He also brought former sheriff candidate Wayne Guffey who is Jane Whaley’s distant cousin and a critic of the church. The political stunt was broadcast on Facebook live. The church filed trespassing charges for everyone involved—except for the Daily Courier reporter MacKenzie Wicker. The moment the church official told them them to leave, MacKenzie quietly exited the building. In all fairness, if you read the email, Wheeler never explains to Jane that he intends to bring in the media with him to the visit. Therefore, it's only reasonable for the church to back out of the meeting. But was it trespassing? Probably not. A judge recently dropped the charges.    My first contact with Jane Whaley The last people to get an invitation to the Word of Faith Fellowship got the cops called on them. However, that didn't stop me from contacting Jane. I have Jane Whaley's email address and intend to use it. Besides, what's the worst thing that could happen? Get arrested for trespassing? Here's my message to Jane: Hi Jane, I'm an independent reporter working on a story about Word of Faith Fellowship. It makes me sad that the national media is so one sided. No one has given you an honest opportunity to tell your story. I'm willing to devote a whole hour of air time to tell your story with no bias from the other side—and no tricks. I realize you have a radio show and YouTube channel stating your point of view. But no third party has had the chance to speak with you directly. I promise no tricks. My offer for is for you to speak to my listeners directly.   Jane Whaley writes back Honestly, I didn’t expect a reply. But boy was I wrong. She responds:   I am checking with my attorney.  I encourage you to listen to the testimonies on the radio. No children have ever been abused in our church.  It is just the opposite everyone is greatly loved.   She wrote this at 2:20am Saturday morning. I quickly wrote back:   Hi Jane, I have listened to many of the radio shows. I love that you’re reaching out to the community. By the way, I am he only reporter who has put the Cooper family’s claims into question.   The Cooper’s, if you remember, is the family Jane claims is campaigning to destroy the church. John Cooper is the man you heard from back in season one.   Jane writes back:   The Coopers did not like it when I would not allow them to bring their worldly lifestyle into the church.  They purposed to close our doors with their lies. God has so blessed us. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Jesus said. If you are who you say you are; I would like to meet you before I make any  commitment. I would like for you to come to one of our church services. That way you can see truth.   I quickly responded, “I can be there tomorrow. What time is the service? Who should I ask for when I get there?” She said:   Our church starts at 9:30 if you want to come and find out truth. They will know you are coming. Someone to take you in and show you where your saved seat is. You can sit right up front right behind me and my family.   Holy smokes! Jane Whaley invited me to church. Never in a million years did I ever expect to speak to Jane Whaley directly. Nobody…. Nobody has ever interviewed Jane.       True Crime Podcast Festival | Chicago 2019 Also, I am excited to announce that Pretend Radio is going to be attending the first annual True Crime Podcast Festival on July 13, 2019 in Chicago! Trust me, start planning now. It’s worth traveling to. This is your chance to mingle with podcasters you listen to regularly. There will also be live episode recordings as well as panel discussions. In fact, I’m speaking in one of them. Some of the shows registered are All Crime No Cattle, Criminology, Canadian True Crime, Mugshot, Swindled, Sword and Scale, and so many more. You won’t want to miss this. Go to the website to find information on tickets and the hotel. Prices do go up the closer we get to the event so you won’t want to wait. When you buy your ticket, make sure you mention Pretend Radio on the ticket registration survey. This is going to be a blast. I can’t wait to meet everyone at the True Crime Podcast Festival! For more information, see the show notes.   Many people have been writing me and sharing their stories. If you have a story to share, shoot me an email at or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Our theme music was composed by Joe Basile with  
31/10/1830m 21s

S305: The Prophet - Brazil and the Word of Faith Fellowship

Did you know that the Word of Faith Fellowship has nearly 2,000 members internationally? They have affiliate churches all over the world including Brazil, Sweden, Scotland, and other countries. I don’t get it. Why would Jane Whaley want to branch out to churches outside the United States? Why not just expand within North Carolina? What could she possibly gain from having members all over the world? The answer, some former members say, is human trafficking. Brazil is by far the biggest territory ruled under Jane Whaley’s kingdom. They have churches in two southeastern Brazilian cities. The first church is in Soa Joaquim de Bicas which is about 6 hours north of Rio de Janeiro. They also have second church in Franco de Rocha which is an hour outside of Sao Paulo. John Huddle, a former Word of Faith Fellowship member recalls visiting the church in Brazil. You would think that leaving Spindale, North Carolina would be a liberating feeling—a rare treat. Oh no. Huddle says that even in the plane, Jane’s rules were in full effect. "You're told what to wear. You're told not to look at the movies on the plane." He says that the church culture travels with you no matter where you go. John Huddle says that in the early years, Jane sent some key people to Brazil and Ghana to be her eyes and ears.  Jane conquered Brazil and offered them salvation For a few lucky Brazilians, Jane blessed them with more than just salvation—an opportunity to live in the United States.  Ana Albuquerque told the Associated Press that when she first arrived in Spindale, church members showered her with love. She said, "The first time you go, they treat you well. But afterwards, they start treating you bad.” Ana says things turned ugly fast. She claims she worked full time as a teacher’s assistant and baby sat church member’s children at night–all without pay. Then the physical abuse started. Ana says that Jane and another minister spanked her with a wooden stick. She told the AP they blasted her with a screaming prayer because she was “unclean” and possessed by the devil. And we’re not talking a small tap on the butt kind of spank. Ana says the beatings lasted for at least 40 minutes. She finally was allowed to return to Brazil and has since left the church. 16 Brazilian come forward “It was a horror living there,” says Rebecca Mello. Her dreams of freedom quickly turned into a nightmare. She told the Associated Press that she was brought to the US in 2009 on a student visa. Immediately after she got here, church leaders took her passports and her money, and was quickly put to work. "We’re made to get up early, make the kids breakfast, cook, do their beds, pick up the the laundry.” Thiago Silva says, "We were there working, but we never got paid. If you’re not paid for something, even for your food, I would say that you’re a slave." All in all, 16 Brazilian’s have come forward to share their personal story of abuse and enslavement. The church responds to season 3 The Prophet Word of Faith Fellowship attorney Josh Farmer reacted to Pretend Radio Season 3 The Prophet. He told the Daily Courier:  "We are saddened to learn that the Pretend Radio podcasts produced by Javier Leiva are simply another outlet for the defamatory lies against our church. The lies being told by Carlos and Ana from Brazil are outrageous. Carlos has never come to our church and we know that he was never beaten in Brazil."   Then on Patreon, church minister Bonnie Lawrence wrote: "My name Bonnie Lawrence and all the allegations that Carlos Henrique made about me are a complete lie. None of it ever happened. I am a member of the word of faith and I spend a lot of time in Brazil. The case against the church in Brazil was dismissed by the judge. The judge found that the testimony from the people against the church was not credible regarding slave labor." She points to an article published from a local Rutherford county blog that claims to have a court document from Brazil where a judge dismissed the case against the Brazilian church. The document from the Brazilian judge states that there is no evidence to indicate that the church is practicing slavery. The document also states, “For these reason, in addition to other inconsistencies, I will not except the allegations of the witnesses of the public ministry of labor.” They wrote except with an “e” and not accept with an “a.” I point this out because I can’t confirm the source of this document. The judge concluded that, “For this reason, I dismiss as unfounded the pleadings in question.” No other news media has reported this other than this local blog. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just saying it’s awfully strange that a small blog got this document and no one else could. Bonnie Lawrence also wrote on Patreon, “The judge found that there was not any slave labor at the word of faith fellowship and that those young Brazilians that visited our church were not forced to work and were not held against their will.   I also contacted the US attorney’s office right before this episode aired to see if there were any updates on the US investigation into human trafficking and forced labor. Lia Bantavani, the Public Affairs Officer for the Western District of North Carolina US Attorney's Office wrote me and said, “can only share that the investigation is ongoing.”      [caption id="attachment_730" align="alignright" width="300"] True Crime Podcast Festival - Chicago 201[/caption] True Crime Podcast Festival | Chicago 2019 Also, I am excited to announce that Pretend Radio is going to be attending the first annual True Crime Podcast Festival on July 13, 2019 in Chicago! Trust me, start planning now. It’s worth traveling to. This is your chance to mingle with podcasters you listen to regularly. There will also be live episode recordings as well as panel discussions. In fact, I’m speaking in one of them. Some of the shows registered are All Crime No Cattle, Criminology, Canadian True Crime, Mugshot, Swindled, Sword and Scale, and so many more. You won’t want to miss this. Go to the website to find information on tickets and the hotel. Prices do go up the closer we get to the event so you won’t want to wait. When you buy your ticket, make sure you mention Pretend Radio on the ticket registration survey. This is going to be a blast. I can’t wait to meet everyone at the True Crime Podcast Festival! For more information, see the show notes. Subscribe Apple Podcasts Google Play Stitcher Spotify Many people have been writing me and sharing their stories. If you have a story to share, shoot me an email at or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Today’s episode was edited by the talented Molly Clay. Our theme music was composed by Joe Basile with
24/10/1832m 55s

S304: The Prophet - Allegations of Abuse and Corruption

When Nancy Burnette was appointed by the courts to be a guardian ad litem, she knew her job wasn’t going to be easy. A guardian ad litem is someone who represents kids in the foster care system. It’s her job to place children in homes with the right parents. If she doesn’t get right, her decision can cause lasting damage on these vulnerable children. This was a challenge Nancy was willing to take. So, put yourself in Nancy’s shoes for a second. If you had to place a child in the custody of the Word of Faith Fellowship family, what would you do? This episode explores the series of questions surrounding the Word of Faith and accusations about their grip on local government. For example, did you know the Jane Whaley’s son in law, Frank Webster, was an assistant state prosecutor at a nearby county? There are also accusations that a local social workers undermined abuse investigations at the Word of Faith Fellowship? The list of accusations go on and on. In this episode titled “Allegations of Abuse and Corruption,” I’ll do my best to describe some of the political controversy surrounding the Word of Faith Fellowship.   ------- See the front page article on Pretend Radio and the church's response: ------- Also, I am excited to announce that Pretend Radio is going to be attending the first annual True Crime Podcast Festival on July 13, 2019 in Chicago! Trust me, start planning now, it’s worth traveling to. This is your chance to mingle with podcasters you listen to regularly. There will also be live episode recordings as well as panel discussions. In fact, I’m speaking at one of them.   Some of the shows registered are All Crime No Cattle, Criminology, Canadian True Crime, Mugshot, Swindled, Sword and Scale, and so many more. You won’t want to miss this. Go to the website to find information on tickets and the hotel. Prices do go up the closer we get to the event so you won’t want to wait. When you buy your ticket, make sure you mention Pretend Radio on the ticket registration survey. This is going to be a blast. I can’t wait to meet everyone at the True Crime Podcast Festival! For more information, see the show notes.   —PROMO— Swindled Framed: An investigative story   —MUSIC—  
17/10/1833m 47s

S303: The Prophet - Former Members Speak Out

On April 7th, 2018, more than a dozen former Word of Faith Fellowship members reunited at the Spindale House in Rutherford County, North Carolina. It was an opportunity for former members to answer lingering questions for the citizens in the community. But in reality, it was probably an event designed to make good television for the documentary crew filming the whole thing. When I walked into the room, I expected a small gathering with a few chairs. Instead, I counted 6 professional video cameras and crew to match it. It was a huge production. I soon learned that today’s community event was part of an upcoming A&E documentary series on the Word of Faith Fellowship. Each former member in the panel sat behind a microphone provided by the A&E crew. About 80 to 100 people were in attendance—including current members of the Word of Faith Fellowship. The room was tense. John Cooper, former Word of Faith Fellowship Former Members speaks about his experience with the Department of Social Services in Rutherford, County. Survivors speak out against Pastor Jane Whaley This episode was especially hard to write because there were so many stories to tell. But there was one story that stood out more than the others. Former Word of Faith Fellowship member Jamey Anderson delivered an impassioned speech about leaving the church. He lamented about being cut off from his family and missing his own grandfather’s funeral. In the audience sat his mother with an emotionless expression on her face. You see, Jamey’s mother is still a member at the church and has cut all communication with her son. Jamey called her out and said, “I’m very happy to see that whatever I've done has motivated her to show up today. So it's at least good to see her.” Jamey used his time behind the microphone to respond to his mother’s 30 minute YouTube video. In the video, his mother Patti, his grandmother Dot, and his step-sister Allison describe why they think Jamey’s a liar and justify why they have disowned him.   ---SUBSCRIBE--- Apple Podcasts Google Play Stitcher Spotify   ---PROMO--- Let's Talk About Sects Killafornia Dreaming   ---MUSIC---
10/10/1825m 26s

S302: The Prophet - Who is Jane Whaley?

Who is Jane Whaley? Jane Whaley is the pastor at the Word of Faith Fellowship—a conservative, charismatic Christian church. Those who have left the church describe her as a ruthless cult leader. But, we don't know much about her. Where did she come from? How did she assume power? I spoke with John Huddle, a former Word of Faith Fellowship member, to learn more about Jane Whaley's past. To learn more visit   --Promo-- All Crime No Cattle   --Music--  
03/10/1833m 48s

S301: The Prophet - Word of Faith Fellowship Revisited

Season 3: The Prophet - Word of Faith Fellowship Revisited I’m back with a whole new season of Pretend Radio. But this time it’s going to be a little different. Instead of telling you a different story each episode, I decided to do a serialize season where I tell you a single story, one episode at a time. So what is it about? It’s about the first episode I aired on this show—the Word of Faith Fellowship church. Back in season one, I met up with a man who says he escaped the cult. His name is John Cooper. I contacted him and asked "Hey, do you want to meet up? I’m thinking about starting a podcast and would like to tell your story." So, we just met up at a park in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At this point, I didn’t know what this podcast was all about. All I knew was that he was part of a religious sect. And what he told me that day in that park blew my mind. But in the end, I feel like I didn’t do that story justice. It was one guy’s story. I needed to go out to the other side of the state, where the Word of Faith Fellowship is located, and do a little more digging. So, I got in my car and drove west. After I spending the whole day in Spindale, North Carolina, I thought to myself, there is no way I keep everything I just learned in one episode. If season one was about John cooper, season 3 is all about the town of Spindale. The episode you’re about to listen to is my first 3 episodes rolled into one. And I’m going to stitch them together by playing some ads for some non-profits organizations. And at the end of the episode there’s a preview of the new season. Now many of you have already heard this story, but trust me, even I had to go back and listen to these episodes. Once the season starts, I’m not going to spend a lot setting things up. We’re just going to get right to it. If you’re new to Pretend Radio, well this is a great place to start. Let me tell you, it’s pretty crazy. I got deeper into this story than any other journalist. The BBC has tried and failed. The Associated Press tried and they couldn’t get in. Even A&E is producing a documentary on the WOFF and they didn’t get the access I got.   So enjoy this flashback episode and revisit The Prophet from season one. And get ready for the season because it’s coming out very soon.    
28/09/1858m 49s

S213: The Hijacker, Part 2 - Martin McNally

Martin McNally needed some cash, so what did he do? He hijacked an American Airlines flight with 90 passengers on board. If you haven’t listened to part one, check that out first. Today’s episode, picks up where we last left off. It’s 1972, and Martin McNally just hijacked a plane heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His plan was simple… Demand a half a million dollars, jump out of the plane, and disappear into the darkness of night. After 15 seconds of freefall, McNally pulls the ripcord. He begins to spin out of control. The parachute whips out and blasts him in the face. McNally looks up at the canopy as it pulls him away from the Earth. Then he looks down, and he realizes that the money bag slipped out of his hands. What now? He’s beat up, he lost all the money, and by the time he reaches the ground, there will be hundreds of FBI agents searching for him. What’s the point? McNally, considers ending it all. You definitely want to check out the rest of this story. This story was produced by Chris Knittel with the Burner Phone Podcast and was written and edited by me, Javier Leiva. LINKS Chief of Police for Peru Indiana picks up Martin McNally | New York Times Article Copter Hijacker Killed by Pilot Had Car With Weapons | New York Times Article Garrett Trapnell | Wiki FEATURED PROMO Already Gone Fall Line Podcast MUSIC The Pretend Radio theme song was composed by Joe Basile with Additional music by Blue Dot Session
24/07/1843m 11s

S212: The Hijacker, Part 1 - Martin McNally

Martin McNally is going to hijack this plane and nobody, not even the FBI, is going to stop him.   In today’s episode, Martin McNally recounts his 1972 hijacking of an American Airlines flight heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His plan was simple—sneak a submachine gun onboard a 727 jet, demand a half-million dollars in cash, and escape with a parachute. And he almost got away with it.    Martin McNally’s story is gripping and will have you at the edge of your seat. He was inspired by the infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper. But unlike D.B. Cooper, we actually know how McNally’s story ends.   As you can imagine, his plan didn’t go smoothly. The pilot had to return to St. Louis to get the mailbags full of money. After hours of negotiations with the FBI, there was a crew change and an FBI agent, dressed as crew members, snuck on board. Then, as the plane was preparing for take off, a drunk passenger smashed his Cadillac into the nose of the plane.   By now, it should have been over. But McNally persisted and demanded a new plane. Once up in the air, McNally jumped into the darkness and disappeared with the cash.   This story was produced by Chris Knittel with the Burner Phone Podcast and was written by me, Javier Leiva.   --- FEATURED PROMO   Oh No! Lit Class   Killafornia Dreaming   --- MUSIC   The Pretend Radio theme song was composed by Joe Basile with   Additional music by Blue Dot Session  
18/07/1842m 24s

S211: The Jolly Roger Social Club

You may remember Sharon McConnell-Dickerson from episode 8 titled “The Sculptor.” You know, the blind artist who casts the faces of dying blues musicians. When we first recorded that episode, she told me a story that quite frankly was hard to believe. It sounded like something out of a movie. In fact, it should be turned into a movie. It’s one of the most sadistic con artist stories I’ve ever heard. And warning, this episode is pretty dark. So if you don’t like that kinda stuff, you’ve been warned. This is the story of Wild Bill.   Wild Bill, who’s real name is William Holbert, had long blonde curly hair and frequently wore a viking helmet. He was 6 feet tall and looked like one of those guys at the gym who’s pumped up on steroids. Wild Bill was also the owner of a Panamanian bar he liked to call the Jolly Rogers Social Club. The bar, which sat off the side of his island property, was a down and dirty watering hole, known for loud parties and the occasional drug use. The decor was simple. Wild Bill flew a flag with skull and bones. And the bar's motto says it all—90% of our members survive. William Holbert, and his wife Laura Reece, were not only the island bar owners. They also had a keen eye for real estate. The strange thing is, every time they closed a deal, the person selling them the property would disappear. Sharon McConnell-Dickerson shares with us the story about her friend Bo Icler and the real estate con that ripped them apart.    ----- To learn more about this story, please check out the book titled, "The Jolly Roger Social Club" by Nick Foster.    ----- Featured Promos: Moms and Murder The Murder in my Family   ----- Theme music composed by Joe Basile with Additional music by Poddington Bear   ----- This episode was written and produced by Javier Leiva   If you would like to support the show, please leave us a rating on iTunes or donate $1 to our Patreon Page.  Also, check out our sweet t-shirts.       
04/07/1837m 8s

Pretend Radio Anniversary Bonus Episode

Guess what? Pretend Radio turns one year old this month. So I thought it would be cool to replay some old guest interviews I've done on other shows.    (01:00) Generation Why Podcast Interview - I talk about Vester Flanagan, the reporter who murdered the news crew live on television (14:23) Maurer Glass Podcast Interview - Learn how I find my guests and behind the scenes insights (30:22) The Live Canary Interview - I traded a story for a beer   I'll be back soon with a new episode. In the meantime, spread the word.   
19/06/1837m 44s

S210: The Babalawo - Secrets of Santeria

Today's episode "The Babalawo" is about Santeria… the faith, not the song. Unlike the pop tune, not a lot of people know about this mysterious religion. Santería, also known as Regla de Ochá, La Regla de Ifá, or Lucumí, is an Afro-Cuban religion that means the worship of saints. So, you maybe asking yourself, “Javier, where’s the pretend angle here?” Well, this religion in particular gives me the heebie jeebies. I feel like people visit these Santeria priests like if they’re fortune tellers. Are they just taking advantage of people’s emotions or am I discriminating on this faith? Spoiler alert… I’m pretty sure I’m discriminating against their faith. But, I’m better than that right? Are my fears real or is this just a bunch of urban legends? Well, there’s only one way to find out. I need to travel to my hometown of Miami and embed myself in the Santeria community.   First, I had to find a babalawo. What’s a babalawo? A babalawo is a Santeria priest who acts as a medium channeling the prophecy from the Orishas. Orishas are spirits who are a manifestation of the supreme God Olodumare. In this episode, we’ll get into the history and origins of Santeria. I also talk with a Santeria priest and priestess to learn more about their secret rituals.   -----LIES, LIES, LIES----- Has someone ever lied to you? Have you ever lied to protect someone else? Send me your personal story and I'll post it on my Patreon channel.   If you'd like to submit a story, leave me a voicemail at 919-867-1871 or record your story on your smart phone's voice memo app and email it to me at  -----MUSIC----- Theme Music composed by Joe Basile from The Chicken Music and Sound Design. Find out more about Joe and The Chicken at Additional music by Podington Bear -----PROMOS----- Promos by: Beyond Bizarre Podcast
06/06/1845m 47s

S209: The Good Cop, Bad Cop

How does a good cop turn bad? For Ruben Palomares, a former corrupt LAPD Rampart division officer, the process was slow. He went from receiving LAPD’s highest honor to becoming one of the most corrupt cops in US history.   Officer Palomares’ story begins with his first undercover assignment. In the late 1980s there was this show called 21 Jump Street. Johnny Depp starred in it. It was about undercover cops, who pretended to be students, in order to bust drug dealers in schools.   But did you know that back in the 1994, the Los Angeles police department juvenile narcotics unit actually recruited young officers to infiltrate classrooms in order to investigate drug dealers? They couldn’t just get any cop to fill this undercover role. They needed a fresh face who could blend in with the students. So, they approached officer Ruben Palomares.   In 1995, Ruben Palomares got transferred to LAPD’s Rampart Division where he continued to work undercover cases. He was specifically assigned to the anti-gang unit called CRASH. CRASH is an acronym for the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums. This is when Ruben’s fate will be decided.   For the first four years, during his time at the Rampart Division, his superiors described him as a leader with a reputation for excellence. But Ruben was committed to cleaning up his neighborhood—and he was willing to use his authority to do so.   That’s when the suspicious shootings started to happen, then the robberies, and before anyone even noticed, he was wrapped up with the same officers suspected of orchestrating the assassination of The Notorious B.I.G.   Today’s story is a collaboration with my good friend Chris Knittel from the Burner Phone Podcast. Burner Phone is a collection of intimate conversations with former criminals. Chris is a documentarian whose work has been seen on VICE, Netflix, A&E and NatGeo.   -----LIES, LIES, LIES----- Has someone ever lied to you? Have you ever lied to protect someone else? Send me your personal story and I'll post it on my Patreon channel.   If you'd like to submit a story, leave me a voicemail at 919-867-1871 or record your story on your smart phone's voice memo app and email it to me at    -----BURNER PHONE PODCAST----- You can find Burner Phone Podcast on Apple Podcast and Twitter.   -----MUSIC----- Theme Music composed by Joe Basile from The Chicken Music and Sound Design. Find out more about Joe and The Chicken at     -----PROMOS----- Promos by: For Keeps Podcast | Apple Podcast Hong Kong Confidential | Apple Podcast  
22/05/1838m 52s

S208: The Stranger

A lie is only powerful if you choose to believe it. So why do we fall for it every time? In this episode, we’ll hear four different stories. Each describes a tall tale, so persistent, that it’s hard to imagine someone keeping all the lies straight in their head.   Each one of these stories reminds me of the movie The Truman Show. It seems like everyone I spoke with lived in a world carefully created just for them.   Now it’s time to ask you. Have you ever been lied to? Or have you ever told a lie in order to do the right thing? I invite you to share your story on Pretend Radio. If selected, your story will be featured as bonus content on our Patreon channel. Patreon is a way that you can support the show. And who knows, your story could be featured on the main show.   If you would like to share your story, record your story using your smartphone voice recording app and email your audio to Or leave me a voice mail at (919) 867-1871. Please try to keep your story under 10 minutes.   Don’t forget to leave me your name and a way to contact you.   I can’t wait to listen to your stories.   Theme Music composed by Joe Basile from The Chicken Music and Sound Design. Find out more about Joe and The Chicken at   Additional music by: Podington Bear - Bambi Podington Bear - Twosome Podington Bear - Bumble Podington Bear - Suppose it is Thank you to Steven Pacheco with the Trace Evidence Podcast and Nicki T with the Strictly Homicide Podcast for partnering with me on this episode. And I’d love to thank Carly Nichols and Andrea Hill for listening and taking the time to talk with me.
09/05/1833m 25s

S207: The Gambler Part 2 - Art Schlichter

Previously on Pretend Radio, we learned how Art Schlichter’s gambling habits destroyed Anita Barney life. She went from being the wealthy widow of a Wendy’s CEO to becoming broke and struggling to pay her light bill.   It started out with a loan for $10,000. Art Schlichter said he needed the money to buy a car.   Anita: “He just met me and he’s asking me for money. I was totally surprised but I didn’t know what to say. I said yes.”   That was just the first loan. Slowly, he would borrow away her entire fortune. Why did Anita Barney allow this to happen? Why didn’t she just say no?   Anita: “I just needed my money back. I couldn’t let my family know what had happened. And that’s what kept me going. It’s gotta end. He’s saying it's going to end.”   But it’s never going to end. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. After Art Schlichter emptied her bank accounts, she turned to her friends and neighbors for money. Under Art’s instructions, Anita would cold call friends, some who she lost contact with, and asked if they were interested in an investment opportunity. She asked if she could borrow some money and promised to repay the loan with a 10% interest. As far as they know, she’s still a millionaire. It seemed like a safe bet. Little did they know that Art Schlichter would bet away their life saving in a matter of days.   And that was just the first scam.   In part two of The Gambler, we’re going to talk about how Anita went from being Art Schlichter’s victim to his accomplice.   You can find Anita Barney's memoir titled "Quarterback Sneak: Exposing the Criminal Game Plan of Art Schlichter" on Amazon:
13/03/1820m 18s

S206: The Gambler Part 1 - Art Schlichter

This is the story of disgraced Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter. In order to understand Art Schlichter’s crimes, you first have to understand how his story ends. Anita Barney, heiress and widow of a former Wendy’s CEO, lost every single penny her husband left her.  Art Schlichter and Anita Barney How did it happen? Art Schlichter gambled away her entire fortune.  Art and Anita first met in 1981 after her son Alan survived a plane crash. He was at the pique of his football career when he heard about Alan’s accident. A mutual friend brought Art over to pay Alan a visit. It turns out, Alan's football hero was a compulsive gambler. Art made a series of bad bets and lost thousands gambling on college and professional teams. By midseason, he blew his entire signing bonus. He continued to play, but his football career was essentially over. Looking back, he’s considered one of the biggest draft flops in NFL history. Art Schlichter's gambling problem got so bad, that in 1995 he was sent to prison for 10 years for fraud and writing bad checks. After prison, Art says he was a new man. In fact, he was campaigning around the state of Ohio asking people to vote against the legalization of casinos. 30 years after they first met, Art ran into Anita while promoting his new book. Anita caught up with him after his speech. Anita: “Art, you don’t remember me…” I told him who I was. He said, “I do remember you now. How is Alan doing?" “He’s doing well and I’m having a surprise 40th birthday party. Would you like to come?” He said, “Yeah that would be good. I would like to surprise him.” Anita gave Art her phone number. A few days later, Art calls and says, Anita: “I would love to come but I can’t.” He said, "I’d love to get together and get caught up on how Alan’s doing." I said, "Sure that would be fine." He showed up at Anita Barney’s house with a bag full of Wendy. Anita: And that’s how everything started. It didn’t take long for Art to make his move. Before they were even done eating their sandwich he gave Anita a sob story about his daughters. He said he needed to borrow $10,000 to purchase a car so he can visit them.  While this may seem like a ridiculous request, Anita had the means. Plus, when her husband was alive, they helped people out all the time. Art’s promise to repay the loan seemed sincere, the reason for the loan was understandable. Plus, for Anita Barney, $10,000 was a drop in the bucket. Why wouldn’t she help out the man who brought her 10 year old son back when nothing else worked? Anita: I just put myself in his place. And I remembered my son and how sad he was. I don’t know how to explain it. Because he did get my son out of that depression I felt I owed it to him. Because nothing else was working until Art came in. Art promised to pay back the $10,000 loan within 90 days. In fact, he wrote Anita a post-dated check for $10,000. The next week, he asked to meet Anita again. This time, he asked her for $100,000. He said the money would go to pay off the debts he owed other gamblers. He promised to repay the loan with with ten percent interest. After thinking about for a few minutes, Anita agreed to loan him the money. And the rest is history.   This episode was written and produced by Javier Leiva Music by: Cylinder Eight by Chris Zabriskie Careless Morning, Bivly, Pxl Eventuat, Pxl Cray, Pxl Ultra by Blue Dot Sessions Bittersweet, Pounded Piano by Podington Bear No More Trap by Audiobinger    
07/03/1820m 30s

S205: The Reporter - Vester Flanagan

Warning, this episode may be disturbing for some listeners. It describes a shooting that resulted in the death of two people. While this story is not technically about a mass shooting, it has every characteristic of one.   I began working on this story prior to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. My first reaction was to pull the episode. Then, I thought I should postpone the release. But, you know what? There’s never an appropriate time to talk about mass shootings. Unfortunately, this is our new reality.     This is the story of Bryce Williams, the reporter who murdered Alison Parker and Adam Ward live on television. It turns out Bryce Williams is not his real name. Bryce Williams is just a pseudonym for his on air personality. The killer’s real name is Vester Flanagan.   The morning of the shooting, Vester Flanagan faxed a 23 page manifesto to ABC News in New York. In the letter, Flanagan describes his grievances. He writes, “I've been a human powder keg for a while… just waiting to go BOOM!!!!"   Later that morning, Vester Flanagan sends out a tweet from his Bryce Williams account.   “I filmed the shooting see Facebook”   He posts two video on his Facebook timeline showing the murders recorded from his point of view.   The first video shows a hand pointing a gun at the news crew. The second video shows Vester opening fire on Alison Parker.   He later tweets again.   “Adam went to HR on me after working with me one time.” Then, in another tweet he claims Alison made racist comments about him.   In this episode, we’ll talk about what you and I can do, as individuals, to spot the next mass murderer. We’re going to dive deep into the psychology of a killer and talk about the traits some of them have in common.   This episodes was written and produced by Javier Leiva. Post-production and producing support by TJ Counihan from the Pints and Puzzles podcast. Music for this episode is courtesy of Podington Bear and Audiobinger.
28/02/1827m 12s

S204: The Taker

Karl comes from a long line of con men. He says both his grandfather and father were swindlers. It's only natural that Karl slipped into the family business. In today's episode, Karl talks about bribing corrupt company building managers. He says he sold them cheap light bulbs, trash can liners, and cleaning supplies at a premium price. In exchange for buying overpriced products, Karl would send these building managers gifts and cash.   He made lots of money working as a B2B telemarketer. He eventually started his own company doing the same scheme. Karl admits that what he was doing was unethical, but surely it wasn't illegal. Finally, he got his answer when the FBI and the Postal Inspector's office showed with a subpoena. Jerri Williams, the FBI agent who busted him, says she could have locked him up right then and there—but she had bigger plans for Karl. Operation Duct Tape’s original team – Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Mitch Goldberg (now Federal Judge), Postal Inspector Ed Matyas, Jerri Williams (former FBI agent), and AUSA Jeff Whitt. In this episode, listen to Jerri and Karl retell this story. And learn how a multi-agency Group II undercover investigation targeting the business to business telemarketing fraud industry unfolded in the Philadelphia area. ---- Special thanks to Jerri Williams for contributing her episode titled, "Karl LNU."   This episode was written and produced by Javier Leiva and Jerri Williams.   Subscribe to Pretend Radio: Apple Podcasts: Google Play: You can learn more about Jerri Williams at --- This episode includes promos from the following independent podcasts: -Maurer Glass Podcast -The Breakers Podcast  
20/02/1825m 52s

S203: The Boy and the Girl

Candis Cox and her husband Adam live in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is their love story. How did I find them? I’m glad you asked. I told my friend Wendy I was looking for a couple profile. She said, “Hang tight. I have the perfect couple for you.” 15 minutes later, Wendy calls back and tells me to call Candis Cox. It was the most awkward conversation. I called her and said, “Hello, my friend Wendy said you and your husband are madly in love. Do tell.” She was like, “Okay?” Their story is unremarkable in many ways. They met at a bar, went on a date, and eventually married after years of dating. What makes this story special is listening to them retell it. Love is a hard thing to define. It’s not a particular moment in time. It’s a collection of memories weaved into one story. But love doesn’t come without sacrifice. We’ve all been there. It’s overcoming these challenges that make a great love story.   If you haven’t listened to the episode, I would stop reading here.   They say the best way to get to know someone is to breaking bread with them. We don’t have to agree with who they are or what they do—We just have to understand them. You see, the goal of this episode is for you to connect with Candis and Adam in the most human of ways. For the first 10 minutes of the show, I won’t not tell you what they do for a living, who they voted for, or what they believe in. All we know is that they’re crazy about each other. It’s just love. And if we can understand that, then we’ll be more open to understanding the next part of the story. Candis Cox is transgender. She underwent her transformation after college. When her and Adam met, he had no clue what he was getting himself into. In fact, she broke the news on their first date. Completely unphased by this revelation, Adam asked her to go out on another date. Eventually he asked her to marry him. More than 10 years later, they say their love has matured. When he met her she was a restaurant manager. Today, she’s a leader in the LGBTQ+ community in Raleigh, NC. Candis Cox was a pivotal leader in the fight against North Carolina’s bathroom bill HB2. You may be asking yourself, what does this story have to do with Pretend Radio? Where’s the pretend angle? Well, after listening to my friend Alex Hopkins speak about his transition from female to male, it got me thinking. What is it like for a child trying to reconcile with his or her gender identity? I was trying to imagine the struggle of masking out their true identity in order to fit in. But when I met Candis, she was insulted at the premise of my story. She never felt like she was pretending. In fact, she almost walked away from the interview. I assured her that I meant no disrespect. I was just trying to bring attention to the community. After we shared a  pizza pie and washed it down with a few beers, we realized, this is not a pretend story at all. This is a story about being your true self, even when the world is making you pretend to be someone else.   The boy and the girl was written and produced by Javier Leiva and Wendy Gatlin.
14/02/1819m 47s

S202: The Snake Oil Salesman Part 2 - Curing Autism

Last time on Pretend Radio, I spoke with a group of women who drink a bleach-type chemical that they claim cures everything from cancer to depression.  I soon found out that parents are forcefully giving bleach enemas to kids with autism. As a result, children are shedding their intestinal tract lining. In this episode, I interview Kerri Rivera, the woman leading this movement, and find out why she thinks this chlorine dioxide treatment is the cure for autism. —- This Week’s Promo: Moms and Murder | Mirths and Monsters
07/02/1826m 0s

S201: The Snake Oil Salesman Part 1 - Curing cancer & depression

I stumbled upon a group of people who self-medicate with chlorine dioxide, a bleach-like substance. They claim it cures everything from  headaches, lyme disease, malaria, HIV, hepatitis, and cancer.  When I first discovered this trend, I thought surely this must be a small group of people. Seriously, who would take this stuff? But then I realized this is actually a huge movement among the alternative medicine community. I was outraged. How can people believe that drinking a cleaning product could actually be good for you? In this episode, you'll hear from the man who discovered this "miracle cure" and from the people who take it.    Special thanks to Chris Cogswell with the Mad Scientist Podcast and Dr. Matt Zuckerman with the TOXnow Podcast.    ---- This Week's Promo: The Disgraceland Podcast Murder, infidelity, suicide, arson, overdose, religious cults, drug trafficking; this podcast explores the alleged true crime antics and criminal connections of musicians we love like Jerry Lee Lewis, Beck, The Rolling Stones, Tay K-47, Tupac Shakur, Mayhem, Van Morrison and many more. Why? Because real rock stars are more like feral, narcissistic animals than functioning members of society and that is precisely what makes them so damn interesting. If you love true crime and you love music then get ready to love this podcast. Listen:
31/01/1824m 33s

Pretend Radio Season Two Preview

Pretend Radio is back with brand new stories of people pretending to be someone else. This season I uncover a community of parents who are forcing their kids to drink a bleach-like chemical to cure them of autism.  I also talk to a scam artist and the FBI agent who busted him.  And I talk to a millionaire who’s life was destroyed by a con man but then ended up becoming a con artist herself. Plus, I share a story I don’t usually talk about… it’s my personal encounter with a psychopath. Pretend Radio season two is coming soon. 
07/01/181m 33s

S111: The Bigamist

Mary Turner Thomas says she married a bigamist. She claims her husband, William Allen Jordan, was involved with 8 different women and fathered 13 kids. At one point, he had two wives, two fiances and a girlfriend on both sides of the Atlantic. William Allen Jordan and Mary Turner Thomson How in the world did Mary not know about these other relationships? How can one man pull off a con this big? It's easy to dismiss Mary as being naive. However, William Jordan was a skilled con man. Once you listen to how they met, and fell in love, it's easy to understand how he could steal her heart. Little did she know he will eventually steal much more than that. Mary says that William conned her out of £200,000. How did he do it? He led her to believe that he was a contractor for the CIA and terrorist were holding his family for ransom. As unbelievable as this sounds, he crafted evidence to back up his claims. Listen to Mary Turner Thomas describe the tactics he used to con her and learn how he finally got caught. This story was originally reported by my friend Lanie Hobbs at the True Crime Fan Club. I highly recommend you check out their show. You can find Mary’s book titled The Bigamist on Amazon: She is also on Twitter: or at
13/09/1732m 29s

S110. The Pretender Part 2 - Undercover FBI Agent Marc Ruskin

The Pretender - Marc Ruskin FBI undercover agent Remember the name Marc Ruskin: because if you run into him, chances are he will introduce himself as Alex Perez, H. Marc Renard, or Sal Morelli – just a few of his FBI undercover personas. Marc Ruskin started his career as an assistant DA in Brooklyn and left it all behind to join the FBI Academy. It didn’t take him long to become an FBI undercover agent. His first big undercover case landed him in Wall Street busting up trading scams. That case went down in flames when a former colleague recognized his true identity and blew his cover. His next assignments proved to be much more dangerous. Marc embedded himself with mobsters, corrupt public officials, terrorists, and powerful drug dealers. Of course, we can’t cover his entire 27 year career here on this podcast. For that you’ll need to check out his new book titled “The Pretender.” It’s a great read. What we will do is talk about a few cases that were so intense, it had me grip the book so tight that I almost fused the pages together. Marc Ruskin’s next assignment was to bust up a fraudulent documents scheme in New York City. I'm not talking about fake IDs – there’s a difference. These fraudulent IDs are the real thing. If a police runs a fraudulent driver’s license, it actually checks out in their database. Marc told me terrorists, mob guys, fugitives were being arrested and had all kinds of real documents in their wallets under fake names. The FBI didn't have any leads. First, they had to find the source of these fraudulent documents. Marc says that some of these fraudulent driver’s licenses were selling for as much as a thousand dollars on the streets.  It wasn’t until a tip from a twenty-something-year old man named John Sultan that led the FBI to a shabby travel agency in the Bronx called Holy Land Travel. The travel agency was a front led by Palestinian immigrant named Mahmoud Noubani. The Pretender Marc Ruskin FBI Undercover You can find The Pretender on or at your local bookstore. Also a special thanks out to St. Martin’s Press for letting me share Marc’s story with you. Buy the book on Amazon: You can also follow Marc Ruskin on Twitter Also, listen to Moms and Murder:
05/09/1725m 13s

S109: The Pretender Part 1 - Undercover FBI Agent Marc Ruskin

Before Marc Ruskin was an undercover FBI agent, he was an assistant DA in Brooklyn. Why did he give up his career as a powerful attorney to join the FBI academy? Well, in order to prosecute criminals, you have to catch them first. It didn’t take long for Marc to become an undercover agent. For 27 years, he slipped into various different characters busting criminals ranging from drug dealers to Wall Street insiders. At one point, Marc was juggling three or four cases at a time – switching back and forth between identities. He wrote a book about his time at the FBI appropriately titled “The Pretender.” When I first discovered his book I immediately shot him a message. Luckily for me, he agreed to share some of his stories. In the late 80s and early 90s, San Juan Puerto Rico had one of the highest murder rates of any US city. Some of the violence can be blamed on the Machetero, a separatist group actively trying to make Puerto Rico and independent country.   Marc: "So I had gone from being an attorney in New York where the biggest thing I had to worry about was a papercut. Now I was in the streets of San Juan Puerto Rico as a combatant to the Macheteros. We learned at one point that the Macheteros had a plot to assassinate an FBI agent. The problem was, we didn’t know who the FBI agent was." Listen to my interview with Marc Ruskin on part 1 of "The Pretender" on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.  You can find The Pretender on or at your local bookstore. Also a special thanks out to St. Martin’s Press for letting me share Marc’s story with you. Also, you can follow Marc Ruskin on Twitter Also, listen to my new favorite podcast at: Moms and Murder: Pints and puzzles: Pleasing Terrors Twisted Podcast: Couple Money: Triangle Tactical Podcast:
27/08/1718m 40s

S108: The Sculptor

Sharon McConnell-Dickerson is preserving the Mississippi Delta blues with her own two hands. She's doing it by creating molds of some of the most influential blues musicians of our time. The lifecasts include a mask of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Milton from Memphis, “Honeyboy” Edwards from Chicago, and Pinetop Perkins from Clarksdale, just to name a few – almost 60 musicians total.
23/08/1722m 24s

S107: The Real Estate Agent - Part 2 - Todd Kohlhepp

South Carolina serial killer Todd Kohlhepp confesses to the Superbike Motorsports mass murder. This is part 2 of "The Real Estate Agent." I suggest starting with part 1. It was a Thursday morning. Kohlhepp walked into the Superbike motorsports store and started scoping out the place. He’s not shopping for motorcycle. He’s looking for his next victims. Kohlhepp: "I got there. Not everybody was there. I went in sat on a few bikes, did my usual. Basically buying for time. And doing my best to make sure the paying customers are not there. Collateral damage is not cool. I chose a time when it was not busy. A time after work when I would have a lot of people in there. I did not want to shoot other people. Finally all four show up. From the sound of it nobody else was there." The four people Kohlhepp is referencing are Brian Lucas, Chris Sherbert, Scott Ponder, and Scott’s mother Beverly Guy. Investigator: "When you say all four?" Kohlhepp: "All the four people who work at the bike store. The mechanic, the mom. I was not going for the mom but she was there at the time. Working there. She was thrown into it. She was not a primary target." The store finally cleared. Kohlhepp was the only customer in the store. He tells one of the employees that he’s interested in a certain bike. Kohlhepp: "I cleared that room in under 30 seconds. You guys would have been proud. I’m sorry but you guys would have been proud." This was the crime Kohlhepp got away with. Nobody was looking for him. Why would he confess? SUBSCRIBE NOW Apple Podcasts: Google Play: Stitcher:
15/08/1722m 0s

S106: The Real Estate Agent Part 1 - Todd Kohlhepp

This week’s story is about self-professed serial killer Todd Kohlhepp. What’s terrifying about Todd Kohlhepp? He’s not the type of serial killer you see in the movies. He doesn’t collect body parts in his fridge. He doesn’t taunt the media with riddles. He seems like a normal guy who owns a successful real estate company. Listen as his last surviving victim describes how he killed her boyfriend and locked her up in a shipping container for weeks. And that's just the beginning.   SUBSCRIBE NOW Apple Podcasts: Google Play: Stitcher:
09/08/1726m 39s

The Real Estate Agent - Preview

The Real Estate Agent, part 1 Preview This is just a preview episode. If you want the full episode now, visit and click on the donate button. If you can't donate today, hang tight. The rest of the season will be out soon. Thank you for listening. Javier
02/08/174m 17s

S105: Birth of a Con Man Part 2 - Opioid epidemic

Previously on Pretend Radio we witnessed the birth of a con man. Erik Torres started his criminal career as a street thug and worked his way up to car insurance scam artist. Here’s how how it works. Erik stages car accidents then the driver goes to his medical clinic and takes out a $10,000 personal injury claim. He made killing scamming thousands from car insurance companies. Surprise, surprise… he got caught and was facing some serious jail time. He could have easily walked away from without going to prison. All he had to do was rat out the guy running the medical clinic. So why didn’t he do it? Why didn’t he cooperate with authorities and turn in the owner of the fake medical clinic? Erik Torres: "I remember I went to jail and I ended up going to court. And the prosecutor was like, “Hey man, you don’t want to talk on your guy.” And I said, “I have nothing to talk to you about this guy.” You want to go to jail and stay in good terms with people because when you come back, you’ll need them.' So, who is this guy? The owner of the clinic? His name is Dixan Barcelo-Castro. The moment Erik set foot outside out of prison, Dixan Barcelo had a job lined up for him. You see, the whole time Erik was doing time in jail, covering for him, Dixan was operating another medical clinic. This time a pain management clinic.
11/07/1718m 51s

S104: Birth of a Con Man Part 1

Imagine, you’re driving on the road when suddenly a beat-down car full of passengers pulls into the lane right in front of you. Then, suddenly, the driver slams on the brakes. You look up at your rear view mirror, but it’s too late, you’re in a three-way accident. But no one should be hurt. It was a minor fender bender, right? Wrong. All eight passengers stumble out of both cars holding their necks and rolling around on the ground. The police officer shows up and incredulously writes up an accident report. In part one of the Birth of a Con Man, hear how Erik Torres became a career criminal, a con-man. He started scamming auto insurance companies, then the con got bigger and more elaborate. You see, that’s how it works. Once a con man gets away with it once, they have to do it again. But the next time, the con is bigger and more complex. Subscribe now: Apple Podcasts: Google Play: Stitcher: Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter at We promise not to pester.
29/06/1722m 39s

S103: The Prophet Part 3 - Word of Faith Fellowship

In the Prophet part 3, we’ll look at the Word of Faith Fellowship from a completely different lens. We’ll hear from current sect members and get their version of the story. Plus, you'll hear the latest on trial against five ministers accused of beating and kidnapping Michael Fenner. If you enjoy the show, consider donating a dollar: Follow us on: Twitter: @pretend_radio Facebook:
22/06/1721m 9s

S102: The Prophet Part 2 - Word of Faith Fellowship

John Cooper remembers one of the Word of Faith Fellowship ministers commanding him to beat his wife. He also describes his family’s attempt to what he describes as a cult. Then it finally happened. John escaped. We’ll listen to secret recordings of pastor Jane Whaley trying to lure him back.  
20/06/1722m 15s

S101: The Prophet Part 1 - Word of Faith Fellowship

The Prophet part 1 explores The Word of Faith Fellowship. You will hear about the accused cult leader, Pastor Jane Whaley, who many inside the sect believe is a prophet with direct communication with God. John Cooper describes the day 20 to 30 sect members surrounded and attacked him. He also shares secret recordings of Pastor Jane Whaley commanding someone to throw someone down to the ground. Plus, you’ll hear “blasting prayers” — ear-piercing crying sessions meant to cast out demons.
13/06/1723m 43s

Pretend Radio - Season 1 Preview

What is Pretend Radio? It’s a documentary-style podcast about people pretending to be someone else. Each episode features con artists, fakes, phonies and their victims. Season one explores The Word of Faith Fellowship and the accused cult leader, Pastor Jane Whaley, who many inside the sect believe is a prophet with direct communication to God. And witness the birth of a con man. Learn how one man went from being a small-time street thug to running a multi-million dollar medical scam. But Pretend Radio is more than just about con artists. It’s a psychological exploration about people defying reality as a way to fit in with the rest of us. We'll chat with a woman who communicates with her dead friend using an artificial intelligence chat bot. There are so many amazing stories we have ready to share with you. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter. We promise not to pester.
06/06/172m 50s
Heart UK