Compassion Can Make Us Victims

Perhaps the most disturbing story we published last week was the one about Darlene Baldwin. It was a reminder that the very compassion that makes Ohio Valley residents special can place us at risk.

Baldwin, 67, of Clarington, was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week. A judge in Monroe County Common Pleas Court also ordered her to make $641,908 in restitution to her victims.

Yes, $641,908. Baldwin defrauded people in East Ohio and this area of West Virginia of that much money. She was prosecuted by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

According to state officials, investigators found that “Baldwin lied to people about needing money for various reasons, such as claiming she had a serious illness or that she was at risk of losing her home.”

One aspect of this case that differs from many fraud situations is that Baldwin apparently did not play on her victims’ greed, as do many con artists who promise people that if they will just invest some money, they can make enormous profits.

No, this time people lost money — an enormous sum of it — because they were being compassionate. They just wanted to help Baldwin.

She promised to repay people in many cases, but never did, according to the attorney general’s office. Instead, Baldwin wired funds to others, who forwarded it to a man living overseas. She had been communicating with him online.

Good for both local and state officials for putting an end to Baldwin’s campaign of deceit. Sadly, it is unlikely her victims will ever see their money again. They paid dearly for trying to help another human being.

Obviously, all of Baldwin’s victims thought they could trust her. Many may have been family members or friends, though state officials have not disclosed that.

Her case is a reminder of the ease with which some people can betray our trust — and the need to be very careful with our money.

And — perhaps this is the silver lining inside a very, very dark cloud — it is a reminder of the big, generous hearts of many residents in our area.