ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County Sheriff's officials said Thursday that Regina Thompson of Moultrie, 38, has been arrested and charged on five counts of theft by deception in an elaborate scam after convincing a man to pay support for a child belonging to a friend of hers.
According to sheriff's office Chief Investigator Capt. Craig Dodd, Thompson used the child of a friend, Lastraga McCloud, also of Moultrie, to convince Joseph Golden of Albany the baby girl was his in order to get him to pay child support.
"I've been in this business for 24 years, and I've never seen anything like this," Dodd said. "Ms. Thompson was keeping her friend's child during the week while the mother was going to school out of town. She (Thompson) approached Golden, an ex-boyfriend, with pictures of the child and deceived him into thinking the baby was his."
Dodd said the ex-boyfriend doled out more than $1,600 in five payments over the next two years even though he was under no legal obligation to do so.
"He was convinced that the little girl was his. They had pictures made at her birthday party and everything," Dodd said. "The real mother in Moultrie had no clue what was going on."
Dodd said Thompson, who was the child's godmother, would take the child to Albany during the week for "visitation" with Golden then return the baby to its mother when she returned to Moultrie from school for the weekends.
Dodd said the scheme began to unravel as the girl, now five, began to talk more and told Golden he wasn't her father. That's when the visits stopped and Golden went to court in order to secure visitation rights.
But when Thompson took the stand during the hearing, she denied the child existed, Dodd said. The sheriff's office then asked local television stations to publicize pictures of the baby in an effort to identify the child.
Within days, Dodd said his office received e-mails and phone calls identifying the baby as McCloud's child. The calls included a call from the maternal grandmother.
"The mother was aghast after she found out what was going on," Dodd said. "She had no clue that her friend was using her child in this manner."
Thompson was arrested and released on bail. Dodd added in addition to the five felony charges, that Thompson would likely also be facing a grand jury indictment for perjury.
Calls to Golden were unsuccessful because his listed number had been disconnected.