Last week, a heart-warming social experiment video hit the web, showing a "secretly filmed" homeless man using an unexpected gift of $100 to buy food for others. Since then, the almost too-perfect clip has been featured everywhere from the L.A. Times to Upworthy and generated over $130,000 on a donation page managed by the video's uploader, YouTube personality Josh Paler Lin.
"Bro, [Lin] drove Thomas to the liquor store," 26-year-old Taugan Tan Kadalim told Vocativ, claiming he was on scene when the video's climax, now seen over 28 million times, was shot. "While I think the guy is homeless, it is clear that from what I saw every part of that scene was staged."
The 26-year-old says he stopped at the store to buy a lottery ticket before picking up his girlfriend, who lives in an apartment complex directly across the street. As he was walking out of the liquor store, Kadalim says he spotted Lin sitting in the driver's seat of a nearby vehicle and recognized him immediately from his previous prank videos. "I was like, 'Oh my God, it's him," says Kadalim, adding that he subscribed to Lin's YouTube channel. "I couldn't believe it."
A cameraman sat in the passenger seat of Lin's car, and behind him was the man who Kadalim would later recognize as Thomas, the homeless Samaritan Lin claims was secretly followed with a hidden camera. Thinking the three men were about shoot a prank video, Kadalim decided to stick around and watch.
Of course, given how many of this year's viral videos were hoaxes, staged or otherwise bullshit, it should hardly be surprising that this one might be too. Unlike those videos, however, this one has six figures (purportedly to help Thomas "get a fresh start") in questionably controlled donations attached.