Kennedy Williams appears on the Today Show to warn about her ‘con artist’ mother who spent a lifetime on the run perpetrating scams as Dana Michelle Lawrence takes on a new persona post jail.
A daughter has appeared on NBC’s Today show to warn viewers not to be taken in by her con artist mother who the 21 year old woman grew up with on the run.
During Friday’s program, Kennedy Wilmers, 21 spoke about life with Dana Michelle Lawrence, 45, who was freed from prison in August after serving 18 months for identity fraud.
Despite the mother only being convicted of a single count of identity fraud, the FBI claims Lawrence duping a string of attorneys, pilots and even a rabbi over the course of more than 20 years by using 19 different aliases across 16 states.
‘She’s already back on Facebook, saying she’s a grant writer. She has these credentials, graduated from Harvard — total lies,’ daughter Kennedy Wilmers revealed. ‘She’s putting herself out there to scam more people, innocent people.’
‘Just knowing her for as long as I did, I know her and her tendencies and she doesn’t feel bad for what she’s done,’ said Kennedy.
Dana Michelle Lawrence: In search of vulnerable men.
Investigators say Lawrence sought out single men without children who seemed eager to settle down while presenting herself as wealthy and successful.
‘She would tell them that she was an Ivy League-educated attorney, that she came from incredible wealth, that her father was deceased, her mother was a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, working in Africa. She said that her family had connections to the royal family,’ FBI Special Agent Mark Hastbacka said during the show.
Soon, sometimes after just one date, Lawrence would claim to be pregnant, extracting money and jewelry out men who just wanted to do right by her.
‘She preys on good people,’ Kevin Little, who met Lawrence in 2001 when he was bartending in Orlando, told NBC. ‘She’s good at finding good people.’
She left a $200 tip on a $70 tab, claiming she was was in town to take care of her sick mother, Little said. Flashing a corporate card from Lucasfilm, Lawrence claimed she worked in New York City for Star Wars creator George Lucas.
After a one-night stand, Lawrence said she was pregnant. She did give birth to a daughter, but then skipped town with the girl.
Little never gave up on seeing his daughter Avery though, and was able to regain custody in 2005 when Lawrence was arrested on fraud charges in New York.
In 2006, Lawrence completed consecutive one-year prison terms for fraud-related offenses she committed in New York and Rhode Island.
After Lawrence was released, she was required to serve a nine-year probation in connection and pay restitution – but she skipped town and fled.
Over the years, Lawrence had six children with six different men.
Though she often abandoned them and gave two up for adoption, Kennedy became her constant partner in crime at a young age, the daughter says.
Kennedy describes how her mother would often claim that she was her niece, saying her parents had died of cancer, or in a car crash – whatever seemed most likely to tug at the heart strings.
Then came the pleas for cash to support the orphaned ‘niece’, Kennedy said.
‘I asked her, “Why do I have to say my mom died?” and she just always came up with excuses and was just very firm and strict. I would get in a lot of trouble if I would slip up,’ recalled Kennedy.
When Kennedy was 12 or 13, she got fed up with the constant moving from place to place, which her mom claimed was in order to flee an abusive ex.
‘I said “No. I love my friends, I love my school and I’m tired of running,”‘ Kennedy said.
‘She told me that’s fine but that she has to go. So she basically went back up to the apartment, she wrote a handwritten letter, giving custody to [the landlord] and then she left.’
Dana Michelle Lawrence adopts persona of Genna Kaplan.
The hand of the law once again caught up with Lawrence in May, 2017, when she was volunteering as a grant writer for the city of Nashua, New Hampshire under the name Genna Kaplan.
Officials grew suspicious of her persistent requests for bank routing numbers for city accounts, and her erratic response when confronted about it. They called in the FBI.
Agent Hastbacka managed to bring Lawrence in for questioning before she skipped town. There was no record of a ‘Genna Kaplan’.
Eventually, Lawrence gave up her real name. Even then, there were no records – no taxes, bank accounts or utility bills listing Dana Lawrence. She was a ghost.
As Lawrence was taken into custody– she allegedly bragged about the extent of her crimes.
‘She challenged me that I only knew 20 percent of what she’s done over the years, and I would never be able to figure it out,‘ Hastbacka said. ‘So, challenge accepted.’
Based on the fact that she had rented her apartment under a false identity in New Hampshire, Lawrence was charged with and convicted of using someone else’s Social Security card. No other charges could be brought because of the statute of limitations, officials said.
When Hastbacka called Kennedy to tell her of her mother’s arrest, she recalls thinking ‘it finally happened’.
‘I knew everything at that point, how my whole life was a lie and she was a terrible person,’ Kennedy said.
Dana Michelle Lawrence post jail: a continuation of past habits?
Since going free from prison in August, the dailymail reported Lawrence launching a website, on which she claims to be a ‘grant writer, advocate, and development strategist’.
‘As I look to my next 30 years of service with great enthusiasm and humility, I am grateful to have the devotion of my family, countless supporters, and the grace of my God at every turn,’ Lawrence posts on the site.
Kennedy, Avery and Lawrence’s two other children who were not put up for adoption have now reunited. They and their jilted fathers now consider themselves one big family – one that is ready to put Lawrence’s wrongdoings behind them.
‘Despite what she’s ruined for us we still have each other and that’s the most important part,’ said Kennedy.
Next week, they all plan to get together for Thanksgiving dinner in Charleston, South Carolina.
‘For a lot of my life, I hoped one day she would come to her senses and we would be a happy mother-daughter family, but I think that a few years ago I finally came to the realization that that’s never going to happen,’ said Kennedy. ‘I just need to live life the best way I can.’