Couple 'in awe' by money raised to help them recover from scam

RANTOUL — The money won't come close to replacing what they lost, but in a way, Chuck and Nancy Padilla gained perhaps something just as valuable.

The knowledge that people care.

The Rantoul residents, who were bilked out of $109,000 last year by telephone scam artists, received more than $5,000 recently from a fundraiser staged by the Rantoul VFW post.

"They couldn't even talk when we handed them the money," VFW member Les "Motor" Kuelbs said of the Padillas. "They were just standing there in awe."

The benefit raised $5,582, according to Kuelbs, who said that the names of businesses or individuals who gave donations are too many to mention.

"We had a whole bunch of stuff (donated for auction)," Kuelbs said.

"Businesses, individuals, guys from the VFW, the American Legion, you name it, they were helping out."

A regular auction and a silent auction were held. In addition, the VFW held a 50/50 raffle, and the winners gave the money to the Padillas.

"Everybody was real cooperative," Kuelbs said. "A lot of people went out of their way (to help)."

Brenda Wise helped to organize the event and did all of the baking and cooking, he said.

Chuck Padilla said free food was available, and those attending gave donations.

The military veterans wanted to help one of their own.

Padilla served from 1947-49 in the Marines and from 1949-52 in the Air Force, including a stint in Korea as a translator.

But providing a perfect example of "military intelligence," the Air Force sent Padilla, who translated Spanish and Italian, to a region of the world where Chinese, Korean and Japanese are spoken.

"When I got to Tokyo, the colonel who I was supposed to report to said, 'What are you doing here?'" Padilla said with a laugh.

There aren't too many Spanish-speaking Koreans.

The benefit sponsored by the VFW was the second one held for the Padillas.

Their grandson, Brian Padilla, who lives in Paris, France, sponsored an Internet benefit for his grandparents because he felt so bad about what happened to them. That fundraising drive raised about $6,000, his grandfather said.

Last August, the telephone scammers impersonated Brian Padilla and said he was in jail in Mexico after driving drunk and wrecking a car while he was in that country to attend a friend's wedding.

Chuck Padilla said the impersonators on the phone sounded just like his grandson. But when Nancy Padilla finally called Paris to speak with Brian's wife, Brian answered. That's when they knew something was amiss.

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