SANTA ROSA BEACH — After nearly two decades of manipulation, a Walton County woman was left roughly $3 million in debt. Six years after ditching the group that scammed her, Mary Rita Wish's story is told in her biography "Numb, A True Story of Undue Influence."
According to author Gabby Voiculescu, who is Wish's neighbor, Wish hopes her experience will motivate others to really find out who and what they're actually donating to.
In 1996, though connections at her church, Wish became involved with a charity out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Voiculescu said.
Over the next 17 years, Voiculescu claims that about $3 million of assets and cash was siphoned from Wish's accounts to fund personal expenses for the group's leader.
"She said that she felt hypnotized for all those years that she was part of the cult," said Voiculescu, who added Wish made her fortune as the first Tupperware saleswoman.
Currently, Wish, who is 90, lives in Santa Rosa Beach with no hopes of reimbursement, Voiculescu said.
Voiculescu added that although Wish can prove her donations and that she was a victim of undue influence, the leader of the "cult" has died, which has halted any legal investigations.
"My neighbor received a letter saying that 'in this situation, the FBI cannot continue the investigation,' " Voiculescu said. "I think they should because the cult leader's husband is still alive and all the other members of the group."
While millions were stripped from Wish, Voiculescu said she's just happy to finally be free and hopes her story will bring awareness to victims of fraud.
"Be aware when you are contacted by people to donate things," Voiculescu said. "Be sure that your money goes where it's suppose to go, to help the needy. ... Don't just pull out your checkbook and sign a check because it's for charity."