Sob story from 'con man' sees MN churchgoers swindled of $1,000

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A so-called con man from Texas accused of swindling money from members of churches in Rochester is behind bars.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that Alan Farha, 39, on Monday told a sob story to parishioners at the Pax Christi Catholic Church and Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church about how his "whole family had been killed by an IED in Beirut."

Police Capt. John Sherwin told the newspaper that as he told his story "the wallets started opening up, and people started giving." He is accused of collecting more than $1,000 from members of the two churches.

According to ABC 6, Farha, of Carrolton, Texas, has been described by police as a "professional con man" with a history of fraud. He is due to appear in court on Friday for theft by deception.

Suspicions were raised when a parishioner at one of the churches heard he'd told the same story at another and a crime alert was released, with local police hearing back from an officer in St. Paul who said they had cases involving the same man, KIMT reports.

He was apprehended by police at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Rochester – where he is said to have told the exact same story – after being recognized by the priest, ABC 6 notes.

"Mr. Farha is a very smooth operator, has a very convincing story," Rochester Police Captain John Sherwin told the TV station. "It's human nature to be trusting but in this case he's taking advantage of people and their generosity."

KIMT adds that investigators found out Farha collected around $10,000 from churches in Missouri using similar tactics in 2008.

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