Multiple nonprofits say homeless people in Albuquerque are going missing

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There is a bit of a mystery on the streets of Albuquerque. Multiple nonprofits that help the homeless population say people are disappearing. They believe these disappearances are part of a scam.

“Until we do something, this is going to keep happening, people, our Indigenous people are going to keep going missing from the streets,” said Christine Barber, executive director of Street Safe New Mexico.

Barber went on to say vans pull up to people experiencing homelessness promising rehab and housing in Arizona. Those who have made it back to Albuquerque, say it was all a lie.

“We are losing a huge number of the Native population out here in the street and we don’t know where they are, we really don’t,” Barber said.

Street Safe New Mexico says this is an issue that has been going on since January. These scammers, usually in white vans, convince homeless people they can get free rehab and housing if they come with them to Arizona.

“Once in Arizona, people were made to sign up for a specific type of Native health insurance and also sign up for Arizona food stamps, then kicked out and stranded in Arizona,” Barber said. “The whole scam is they would use that person’s name in their so-called rehab but use that person’s name to pretend they are a patient, then bill for services that they rendered.”

What started as one van has increased exponentially in the last couple of weeks.

“Everyone knows someone who has been taken – we started taking down reports from people noting what cars and it has just gotten so much worse in the past few weeks,” Barber said.

Barber was even able to share a business card that one van was handing out to homeless people, so KOB 4 gave them a call. While they didn’t answer, they did ask to text.

KOB 4’s Spencer Schacht told them he was a reporter working on a story about their facility and there were some red flags. The name they gave did not match the business card, they said they don’t have a website, and when he asked for an address, they said he would have to set up an appointment.

Afterward, KOB 4 called another number Barber provided.

“Hi, this is Erik,” a man said on the other end of the line.

Schacht explained he was a reporter looking into these rehab facilities. At first, Erik denied being a part of these organizations – but a few moments later he changed his story.

“It’s not like I took someone and they are missing, I took like 3 homeless people and we were just going to Phoenix,” Erik explained. “I have a friend there, who, what they do is great work, it’s helping people it’s a treatment facility to get people off the street to get the treatment.”

When KOB 4 asked for more information about the facility he said he had given enough information already. And when KOB 4 asked for the name of the sober house, he hung up.

After Erik hung up, KOB 4 checked with local law enforcement to see if they are investigating these disappearances.

APD says it’s out of their jurisdiction because these scammers are leaving the city and crossing state lines — but the Albuquerque FBI field office says they are working closely with the FBI office in Phoenix who has an open investigation into these insurance and rehab scams.