All within a month, a Valley veteran woke up from a coma and learned he was evicted from his home and lost all of his money trying to find a new place to live.
After Shaun Wheelwright woke up from 30 days in a coma, the world was different. He was evicted and his possessions were gone.
"That was auctioned off and my car was listed as abandoned so there’s a lot of dings on my credit and debt I woke up to," Wheelwright said in November.
The West Point graduate served 13 years in the Army and was deployed overseas. Now he’s homeless, sleeping in his car and on friends' couches.
He searched online for a new apartment, but with an eviction on his record, it was tough.
However, when he thought he found the perfect place and double-checked its legitimacy as best he could during the pandemic, he was tricked into paying $2,000 for an apartment that didn't actually exist.
"A lot of scammers will just take a stock photo a description from someone else that has already posted to a site and claim it as their own," said Marilyn Huffman with the Better Business Bureau.
These crimes are on the rise and be cautious about how you pay for items over the internet, Huffman says.
"If you’ve sent money via debit, that’s like handing over cash, writing a check and once it’s been cashed, the chances of you getting it back are much slimmer than if you used a credit card," she explained.
A representative with Zelle said with every transaction, the sender is notified to "Make sure you’re sending to someone you trust" and "Once you’ve sent money, you can’t cancel it."
Wheelwright says he knows he should have seen the place before sending money, but with the pandemic, he wanted to be safe.
"I just want people to be aware there are monsters out there that are going to prey on people in their weakest moments," Wheelwright said.
He's filed a police report with the Phoenix Police Department and said his bank and Zelle are investigating.
To donate to Wheelwright's GoFundMe, click here.
A month later, things are looking up for the veteran
After US and national news caught wind of Wheelwright's story, a flood of help was being offered to the veteran who was down on his luck. What happened to him angered a lot of people and even newspapers in London carried his story.
"I’ll try to not get emotional," Wheelwright said on Dec. 23. "It’s hard to put into words." The holidays are going to be a little better now for the veteran because of generous strangers.
He's proud to show off his new home, a place he rents after a FOX 10 viewer heard his story. He pays well below the average price for rent because the landlord was moved by his story.
More good news: more than $30,000 was raised on his GoFundMe page. Multiple organizations donated time, money and gifts to Wheelwright — which includes the West Point Class of 2004 fund for fallen brothers and sisters and vets struggling to get by.
"That help from my class, all of it, all of it is overwhelming," he said.
On Christmas morning, Wheelwright's children will have gifts to open — something unfathomable just weeks ago.
He'll spend the rest of his life doing what he can to pay it forward, he said, adding that his gratitude often leaves him speechless.
"I’m just overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed in the most positive and different way that you could ever imagine within and few months from great friends and seemingly perfect strangers ... it’s a good Christmas," he said, smiling.
Some of the organizations that helped Wheelwright include, Operation Shockwave, Operation Mission to Alpha and the Strong Gray Line.
Wheelwright says everyone will receive a thank you from him and a promise that he’ll pay it forward.