‘It’s disgusting’: donors speak out about dad accused of faking son’s death for money

Updated: Oct. 14, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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ADAMS, New York (WWNY) - Heartbreaking, disgusting and unbelievable. Those are just some of the words coming from people who thought they were helping a man and his family cope with the devastating loss of a child. Now they say they were swindled by a con artist.

7 News spoke with people who say they opened up their hearts and their wallets to 30-year-old Kaleb Stevens of Adams.

According to state police, 30-year-old Kaleb Stevens told people that his 4-year-old son had leukemia and passed away in August.

Police say Stevens told co-workers at Neenah Paper in Brownville that he needed money for his son’s funeral. According to troopers, two people donated a total of $1,500 to help Stevens pay for expenses.

Police say it turns out Stevens’ son is alive and well.

“I was extremely surprised, and it was almost unbelievable, like, how something like that can happen in such a small town,” said Danielle Phelps.

Phelps and other people in the town of Adams say they were also duped by Stevens’ story about his sick child.

She and other co-workers at Stevens’ other job at FineLine Constructors in Adams say they donated hundreds of dollars.

His boss, Doug Morse, says he gave Stevens money and paid time off. According to Morse, Stevens texted him a photo showing his son’s cremated remains.

“Who uses their own child like that? It’s disgusting,” said Phelps.

People donated more than $1,000 to a GoFundMe page before it was shut down.

A group of church pastors says it donated money to Stevens.

One pastor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says Stevens even asked him to plan the funeral and find a burial plot for his son.

“It’s disheartening. You want to do good by people and this guy took advantage and there are people out there that are really in need, and any time things like this come up, people are not going to want to donate,” said Phelps.

7 News asked Stevens to comment on the allegations. He said, “I don’t have anything to say.”

Stevens already faces felony counts of grand larceny and scheme to defraud. More charges could be coming now that Phelps and most of the others we spoke with have filed complaints with state police.