“Fake News” has been a hot topic in 2018. Whether it’s coming from an angry president or a Russian troll farm, concerns about falsified facts and dodgy reporting have been making headlines all over the world. It therefore shouldn’t come as any real surprise to learn that someone has taken the next logical step of cutting out the middleman and just pretending that they are the news themselves.
According to reports from Florida, a woman posing as “Ms. Cinnamon” has been scamming small local restaurants by pretending to be a journalist from 7News and ordering massive amounts of food. As stated in The Takeout, the restaurants affected included Zubi Fish House in Little Haiti - renowned for its “delicious ceviche and snapper” - and Butter Flakes Bakery in Tamarac - a “Jamaican restaurant known for its curry.” To make matters even more confusing, this identity crisis was reported by the real 7News.
The problems first started a month ago, when Yadira Perez of Zubi Fish House got a call from the alleged “Ms Cinnamon”. The phone was quickly handed over to another woman, claiming to be a 7News manager. According to an interview Perez gave to the real 7News, “She requested if we could do some sample lunch for a conference meeting she had that afternoon at 1 o’clock at the Marriott.” Perez prepared and then delivered around $500 worth of seafood to the hotel, where she met a woman wearing “a black shirt, slacks and...the red tag with a Channel 7 badge”. She was then told to head to the station for payment.
It was then that the situation started to unravel. After arriving at the 7News building, Perez was told by confused staff that no-one had ordered the food and that they couldn’t help her. Angry, but helpless, she was forced to accept that she would get nothing for her work. In a subsequent interview with 7News, Perez said, “It was just a waste of time. All around, a waste of time. We were here the entire day on that for nothing.”
Infact, in every case of fraud, restaurants were given a large order to be delivered to a local hotel. Staff were told that payment for the food could be taken at news station itself, but when they arrived to collect it were met by non-plussed employees who quickly informed them that there had been a mistake. When Harry Sinclair of Butter Flakes Bakery tried to make a delivery, a guard informed him that, “This name sounds familiar. People always come here and ask for her, but she doesn’t work here.”
In another strange twist, Perez believes that she has subsequently spotted the woman who stole her food in the most unlikely of places. She alleges that she identified the woman on a surveillance tape from a downtown homeless shelter, where she could be seen trying to hand out the food. When contacted for comment, the shelter quickly replied that they “didn’t know where the food came from and kicked [her] out.”
At first glance, it looks as though this is a simple story about large-scale food fraud. However, dig a little deeper below the surface and it’s clear that there may well be something more complicated going on. The story from the homeless shelter suggests that, if the mysterious imposter is doing something wrong, she may well be doing it for the right reasons.