FBI agent reveals quest to outsmart swindling seductress
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“This is a story of a woman and her manipulations and cons over the last 20, 25 years,” says FBI Special Agent Mark Hastbacka. “We have the identity theft. The credit card theft. … fugitive from justice. She’s forging checks … straight up larceny, taking the rent money.”
For decades, moving from state to state, Agent Hastbacka says Dana Lawrence swindled victims – wealthy businessmen, a pilot, a rabbi, a private school administrator and her own friends and lovers. At one point, she pretended to be an heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune and passed herself off as working for filmmaker George Lucas.
Hastbacka says Lawrence carried out scams where she sometimes either became pregnant or pretended to be pregnant. She also posed as an attorney and a fundraiser. Along the way, she told her children to go by different names to cover her tracks. He also uncovered how Lawrence used her children as props to gain sympathy.
“She just robbed me of my childhood,” says daughter Kennedy Lawrence. “She robbed my brother and my sister of their childhoods.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” says Hastbacka of Dana Lawrence. “I certainly didn’t think that it would be a wanted fugitive that’s been on the run for 13 or 14 years.”
“I don’t know what Dana’s magnetism is,” Hastbacka says. “I don’t know what lures all these guys to her. But she doesn’t seem to have a problem finding her next victim in that love circle.”
THE CON GAME
In 2017, the case of a woman named Dana Lawrence landed on the desk of FBI Special Agent Mark Hastbacka. He had no idea he was about to expose a career con artist who had swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims, usually men, using at least 15 different aliases across 16 states.
Kennedy Lawrence | Dana’s daughter: I remember just always being on the move. … New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Chicago, California, Boston.
Mark Hastbacka: New Hampshire … Maryland, … Georgia. She’s been in North Carolina. … Texas. Been in Pennsylvania. Been in Provo, Utah. Been in Arizona. … Colorado, too. That’s the ones we know about.
Dana grew up in St. Augustine, Florida. As a teenager, she had a baby girl she gave up for adoption. After that, she began crisscrossing the country.
Mark Hastbacka: We … find that Dana was married to a gentleman out of Provo, Utah, named Brett. … And the stories started then … of having great wealth and her family was connected to the Kentucky Fried Chicken fortune.
After the marriage ended, Hastbacka traced Dana’s path to Chicago and then to New York City. There, in 1996, she met a student named Chris.
Mark Hastbacka: I think very early on, Dana realized that Chris came from a very, very wealthy family and wanted to latch onto that as best she could. … They had a two-week romance. And then she started acting unusual, according to Chris, and he told her to leave. … Dana continued to stalk him and his family, to the point where … his family had to hire a law firm … She did indicate to Chris — that she was pregnant with his child. But she … never put his name on the birth certificate.
That child was Kennedy, who was born in 1997.
Kennedy Lawrence: My mother said that my father was very rich — and that I had a huge trust fund waiting. … Just a very grand story.
Mark Hastbacka: After Kennedy’s born, Dana settles back in the Orlando area and starts going to the nightclub scene.
She had a credit card under the name of Lucas Films, a company the FBI says she never worked for. She used the card to leave big tips at a bar. Impressed, the staff invited her to a party, and she had a one-night stand with a bartender named Kevin. A few weeks later, Dana called Kevin telling him she was pregnant with his child. That was Avery, who she gave birth to in 2001.
Mark Hastbacka: Next time we see her popping up on the radar … is at a hotel bar in Orlando area where she meets Bill. … She has two children with her at the time, Avery and Kennedy.
Dana, Avery and Kennedy moved with Bill, a pilot, to Indiana. He gave her $5,000 to start a cleaning business. Instead, she took off for Massachusetts with the two girls – and without paying Bill back.
Mark Hastbacka: She calls Bill from Massachusetts and tells Bill that she’s pregnant with his son. And Bill wanted to be a responsible parent, be part of his son’s life. Uproots his life from Indiana and joins her in Massachusetts.
There, Dana gave birth to a son, Harper, and once again left the father’s name off the birth certificate.
Mark Hastbacka: I think she never wanted to put a father’s name on a birth certificate because she didn’t want the father to have any chance of taking those children away from her.
The whole family moved to Rhode Island in 2003.
Lydia | Friend of Dana: I met Dana Lawrence for the first time when she enrolled her daughter in the same school as my children.
Lydia She presented herself as a very strong person, well-educated, brought up in a wealthy family. … She said she had been to Harvard Law School.
Kennedy Lawrence: She didn’t go to college. She didn’t finish high school. So these are all lies.
Lydia: She told me that her sister had died of cancer and that Kennedy was … her niece.
Kennedy Lawrence: She would make me say that I was her niece, which I didn’t understand.
Lydia: That was part of her story, building herself up to look like an upstanding, giving person.
Avery Little | Dana’s daughter: People were so vulnerable to her and she made people open up, and she made people trust her
In the winter of 2004, Dana told Lydia she was about to inherit a family trust fund.
Lydia: Dana showed me letters from an accounting firm in New York City … that letter indicated that there was an excess of $28 million in the fund.
Lydia I bought the story hook, line and sinker.
Toward the end of the school year, Dana asked Lydia for money so she could move to New York City, where she claimed she was from and had family.
Mark Hastbacka: Lydia loaned her … money … with the understanding that she would get paid back soon as Dana’s trust came through.
Lydia … then I just said,” if you have any emergencies, you may use this credit card.” Dana had about $12,000 worth of emergencies in a short period of time. … But I still believed maybe she was spending all that money because she knew she was going to be inheriting money any day and she would be able to repay me.
Mark Hastbacka: Lydia is … very generous, probably to a fault. She’s taken in by Dana. She wants to believe the best in people.
But that changed when Lydia heard from another woman in Rhode Island who said Dana had scammed her.
Lydia: I did meet her through Dana.
Lydia: I said, “I need to find out for myself.” I went to New York City to the address that was on the letterhead presented to me by Dana of her accountant. … And there was no such accounting firm at that address. And it was at that very second — I said it was all a lie. … I wanted Dana to be stopped … And I went to the police station.
Mark Hastbacka: The two women in Rhode Island are the first ones that I can find that actually filed a police report against her.
Meanwhile, Dana was onto her next target: a military man named Ben.
Mark Hastbacka: She showed up on the doorstep of Ben in New York City saying that she was running from an abusive boyfriend and she needed a place to stay with her niece. … So, he offers to let her stay in his apartment. … Ben is getting shipped overseas to Afghanistan or Iraq … They did have a romantic relationship. But it was very brief.
After Ben shipped out, his family noticed Dana was using his credit cards. They filed a police report.
Mark Hastbacka: And when the New York police come looking for her to question her about this, she flees.
ON THE RUN … AGAIN
In 2004, Dana Lawrence was on the run from fraud charges in New York and Rhode Island. She fled to Canada with her children Avery, Kennedy and Harper.
Mark Hastbacka: She was pregnant with yet another child. … She … gave birth up in Canada to a little boy named Jackson. … After the birth … she tried to return back into the United States, and she was stopped at the border crossing because at that point the state of New York had felony warrants for her in the system.
Dana was taken into custody.
Avery Little: I didn’t know at the time, but she had gotten arrested. … she was leaving to go somewhere, and I really didn’t want her to go.
Kennedy Lawrence: And she said that she was going to be going away for a while and that she would see me at some point.
Dana pleaded guilty in both New York and Rhode Island and was sentenced to a total of two years behind bars. She was also given nine year’s probation and ordered to pay $47,000.
When she was arrested, Dana put Jackson up for adoption. Kennedy went to stay with Dana’s sister in Orlando. Harper was reunited with his father Bill in Rhode Island. And that’s where Avery joined them.
Avery Little: When my mother got arrested, I was with Bill. And he looked at me one day and he said, “Avery, do you want to meet your real dad?” … I always thought that Bill was my dad. There was no doubt in my mind.
In 2005, Avery met her dad Kevin, that bartender Dana had a one-night stand with five years earlier.
Avery Little: So, this man, my real dad, Kevin, brought me back to Philadelphia where my whole family lived. … I was just looking at everybody. And I had obviously no idea who they are. And I felt so alone and scared and just so out of place.
Avery Little: I was always wondering where my siblings were and where my mom was.
Kennedy Lawrence: When we were separated, it kind of really rocked my world. … I didn’t understand why we had to be apart. … I wondered where they were, what they were doing. And I thought about them every day.
Avery Little: Every day I did wonder about them and I would ask questions that nobody really had the answer to. … “Why isn’t my mom here? What did I do? When is she coming back?”
Mark Hastbacka: When Dana gets released from the prison in Rhode Island … she did try to make contact with Avery and Harper, but the dads wouldn’t allow her to see the children. But because Kennedy was with her family, she retrieved Kennedy.
Kennedy Lawrence: I just remember living with my aunt one day and then somehow living with my mom again. … Except this time, it was just me and her, which I did not understand.
By January 2007, Dana had skipped out on her mandatory probation, and the State of Rhode Island issued a warrant for her arrest as a fugitive from justice.
Mark Hastbacka: She’s now on the run. … She starts using the name Dana McAllister. … She appears next in Chicago, Illinois … She goes on a dating website and meets a guy named Mike, a stockbroker.
Mark Hastbacka: convinced Mike and his family to take out loans and credit card applications under the nonprofit name Bling Thing.
Kennedy Lawrence: It was supposed to be that celebrities donate their jewelry and the proceeds go to charity.
Mark Hastbacka: Dana got approximately $70,000 dollars … from Mike and his parents.
Kennedy Lawrence: The thing about my mother is that she is very smart. So, all of these scams and organizations and nonprofits that she would come up with were really quite brilliant.
Mark Hastbacka: She probably would have kept going, except for the fact that U.S. Marshals came looking for her at her apartment but on a day she wasn’t there. … when the neighbors told Dana that the Marshals had come looking for her, she immediately took off.
Kennedy Lawrence: So, we would always pick up and leave, usually in the middle of the night, … and we’d end up in a new place … usually with a new name.
Dana fled south with Kennedy to Miami. There, Kennedy started at a private school.
Mark Hastbacka: Now she’s Miranda Matthews and she gives Kennedy the name of Kennedy Mancini.
Kennedy Lawrence: I always asked her — why I was having to go by different names, which was really hard for me, obviously, because I was younger, and I would forget. … The only reason that she would give me was the bad guy reason. … She always told me it was because we needed to hide.
Mark Hastbacka: Dana found employment at a nonprofit … She … talked about her Harvard education and trying to work for nonprofits in the area.
Kennedy Lawrence: That actually was a real nonprofit. … So, sometimes I wonder what’s worse, whether creating a nonprofit is worse or going into an actual charity … and ruining that.
Dana stole at least $28,000 using a company credit card. When she was fired, she and Kennedy took off for Boston.
Mark Hastbacka: She’s on some dating websites and she meets an attorney. … within a month they move in together.
Kennedy Lawrence: There would always be a new guy that would come and go from the house. And oftentimes we would live with them, which was always very uncomfortable for me, not knowing who they were.
Dana’s new relationship was rocky. Boston police were called after a fight. Dana told them her name was Miranda Bent.
Mark Hastbacka: Dana decides she has to get out of town again before the Boston police figure out that she lied about her name.
Needing to move quickly, Dana and Kennedy moved back to Miami, where they still had connections.
Mark Hastbacka: En route … she calls the principal of the private school Kennedy had previously gone to and told the principal that she was running from an abusive relationship up in Boston.
Dana ended up working for the school – it was a job that was a perfect fit.
Kennedy Lawrence: She dealt with the financials. … She was using the money for personal gain.
Mark Hastbacka: She’s taking money from — one of the other employees … getting a credit card in her name.
When that co-worker realized Dana was stealing from her, she contacted the police. Once again, Dana decided it was time to hit the road with Kennedy, who was now in her early teens.
Mark Hastbacka: That’s when she went back to her apartment … and told Kennedy that the boogey man was coming for them again and they had to leave.
Kennedy Lawrence: I think that I was finally old enough to realize that something was off. And … I was sick and tired of moving and losing my friends and never seeing them again. And I said that I wanted to stay. … She said that that was fine. … At the time, I viewed it as. “Yeah, see, she loves me. She just wants me to be happy. … She is doing the best thing that she can for me.”
Mark Hastbacka: What kind of parent just leaves their 13-year-old kid? … not the FBI speaking, as a parent – she should’ve never have been a parent.
Kennedy Lawrence: I ended up staying in the apartment by myself. And I went to school every day. I took the city bus to school because got to be a good student no matter what. … But finally, I did run out of money. … So, I did call the police. And after that, I went to foster care and then eventually ended up living with my aunt.
Kennedy Lawrence She always made me feel protected, which was a feeling I didn’t feel with my mom. But … I always really worried about my mother.
Dana, meanwhile, was off on a brand-new adventure – this time in Savannah, Georgia.
Mark Hastbacka: She switches her name now to Olivia Lauder and tells people — that she is the heir to the Estee Lauder fortune. … then she’s off to the races.
NEW ALIASES, NEW SCAMS
Mark Hastbacka: For the cases I’ve investigated, it’s going on 33 years now. She was one of the more complex personalities.
In 2011, Dana Lawrence was in Savannah, Georgia, calling herself Olivia Lauder and claiming to be an heir to the Estee Lauder fortune. She was working for a home restoration business when her boss discovered she had spent around $30,000 on a company credit card.
Mark Hastbacka | FBI Special Agent: He confronts her. She apologizes, says she’s got this trust fund coming from the Lauder Foundation and she’ll pay it all back. … He contacts the local police department, files a report. … And she takes off.
Dana moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where she began a romantic relationship with a waiter named Matt.
Mark Hastbacka: He knew her as Genna or Genevieve. … You know, their relationship is rocky … She blows out of town. … The next time we’re actually able to locate her is when she appears in Denver, Colorado, in 2013.
Mark Hastbacka: She called Matt and let him know that she was having Matt’s child. So, Matt gave up his life as he knew it in North Carolina to join her in Denver, Colorado.
She gave birth to a daughter, Arden. She and Matt and the baby were together on and off for two years.
Mark Hastbacka: Dana just disappears one day with Arden, and Matt has no idea where they went. … When I first spoke to Matt on the phone … he had been looking for her for the last three years or so, trying to find her and … his daughter.
Matt couldn’t find them because they had a new set of names. When Dana reappeared in the Baltimore area in 2015, she called herself Genna Forsythe, and her daughter Arden was now Isabella. And there was a new man in her life—an attorney named Nick.
Mark Hastbacka: Nick … moved her to Philadelphia. … And then Nick got an apartment in close proximity himself.
Even though she had an apartment in Philadelphia, Dana moved into a domestic violence shelter in Maryland to set up her next scam. She targeted a local rabbi, calling herself Genevieve Kaplan.
Mark Hastbacka: She starts changing religions to be Jewish. … Dana … tells the rabbi a story about being pregnant with a child through an abusive relationship that she’s planning on aborting, unless the rabbi can find a family willing to help support her through this.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk |Scam victim: In February of 2016, I got a call from a colleague, from another … rabbi in Maryland. … And he says … you know, a situation came up in the community … a woman came in. She’s in a … battered woman’s shelter. And she’s looking for a family to adopt.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: We had three young children. … And they were all three adopted. … I said, “OK. “
Mark Hastbacka: They come to some sort of an agreement and they’re giving her money.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: There’s certain basic necessities that one is legally allowed to pay for, for a mother who’s gonna give their baby up for adoption. And we did just that … she needed money for a place to live — groceries … medical care. … We ended up giving — between $8,000 and $10,000.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: It was less than two months before she was supposed to have the baby. And I’ll never forget where I was standing in the kitchen when … the Rabbi called. And he said –” you need to be ready for some bad news.”
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: … he told me that … she was in a terrible car accident and she lost the baby on impact.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: That moment when that phone call came from the Rabbi in Maryland, I broke. I was broken. I was so hurt. … ’til this very moment as I sit here today, I don’t know if she was ever pregnant.
Kennedy Lawrence | Dana’s daughter: One story that I learned that my mother had done … was how she … said she was in an accident and that she lost that baby and really that was saying that their baby died. I’m usually never shocked by her, but I think this one really hit home.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk: And I don’t believe for a moment that she didn’t know what that was doing to us. … The idea that we went through all of that trauma, all of that emotional heartbreak over a con artist, that just hurts to the core.
A couple of months later, Dana – aka Genna Kaplan – and her daughter Isabella arrived at another domestic violence center in Nashua, New Hampshire, called Bridges. During its investigation, the FBI found no evidence of domestic violence by anyone against Dana.
Mark Hastbacka: What better place than to go to Bridges? They don’t ask any questions. They really don’t ask any for any identification. And they’re willing to put you up for a period of time and help you get a new life.
Mark Hastbacka: They also set her up with the local food pantry where she can get food and volunteer. … She meets one of the mayor’s employees that’s there doing this turkey giveaway, and introduces herself as new to the city, running from an abusive relationship. But she’s a Harvard-educated attorney and wants to get involved.
Kim Kleiner | Director, Nashua Mayor’s Office: Genna had … let the mayor know that she was a successful grant writer. … The city at the time didn’t have a grant writer, so we welcomed the help.
Kim Kleiner: We didn’t run a background check. … The local food pantry … recommended her very highly.
Mark Hastbacka: The end of December she started filling out an application for an apartment. … The landlord … told me that … he felt comfortable allowing her to rent seeing she worked for the mayor and didn’t want to incur the expense of running a credit report.
She and Isabella moved into the apartment with Nick, her lawyer boyfriend from Maryland.
Mark Hastbacka: Now she’s over there at city hall starting to write grants. … She got two grants. She got one to do over some soccer fields and she did one to get a playground redone in an inner-city school.
After her success securing the grants, Genna began acting strangely.
Kim Kleiner: She wanted an account number. … It’s not normal for the city to give out account numbers and things of that sort. … we made it very clear to her that the city had a process.
Kim Kleiner: Genna became very angry. … It was a very odd, and frightening meeting. … That next Saturday … I got a cell phone call from Genna. … she told me that “I would be sorry”. And I took that as a threat.
Alarmed, Kim called a friend at the FBI: Mark Hastbacka.
Kim Kleiner: I kept saying … “I’m probably overreacting, but I don’t know what else to do.”
In early 2017, FBI Special Agent Mark Hastbacka was looking for a woman named Genna Kaplan, whose odd behavior had raised suspicions in the local mayor’s office. He had no idea she was actually career con artist Dana Lawrence.
Mark Hastbacka: Walking into the apartment what stood out to me was … there were Legos all over the living room floor.
Genna lived in the small apartment with her attorney boyfriend Nick and a 4-year-old girl, Isabella.
Mark Hastbacka: Supposedly, Genna had left on Sunday. Yet we’re here on a Thursday and these Legos are still lying around on the floor. … Being a parent myself, a grandparent, I know that we don’t want to leave Legos around to step on, they’re painful.
Mark Hastbacka: Nick allowed us to search the house … on top of the bed were various laptop computers, cell phones, paperwork, and various ID’s. … I asked Nick if we could take those with us. … And Nick allowed us to do that.
Mark Hastbacka: Approximately 15 minutes after leaving the house, I received a call from Nick. … And he confessed to me that he had lied to me when I was at the house earlier. Genna was down in the basement the whole time. … She hid behind the boiler with the small child until we left.
Genna came to the Nashua Police Department to meet Hastbacka and Detective Joe Rousseau:
DET. JOSEPH ROUSSEAU: And where did you move from?
DANA LAWRENCE: We … I was on vacation with Isabella in Vermont.
Det. Joseph Rousseau: She just was calm, cool and collected like nothing was wrong or that she did anything wrong.
Mark Hastbacka: I believe she wanted those documents and electronic items that we had returned to her. … She was fairly confident, I thought, that she was going to be able to … tell us a line and get out of there with her stuff. … we didn’t go in there with any game plan. We just kind of let it roll.
DET. JOSEPH ROUSSEAU: When did you move to Nashua, New Hampshire?
DANA LAWRENCE: Um, uh … July … yeah July 28th.
Mark Hastbacka: Her initial story to us was that she was using a false name, false Social Security number … because she was running from an abusive relationship in her past.
DANA LAWRENCE: … and I knew that from past experience that I needed to go like missing off the radar or he would …
DET. JOSEPH ROUSSEAU: Find you?
DANA LAWRENCE: Kill me.
Mark Hastbacka: I didn’t know what to believe. I still didn’t know the identity of this child. That was the most concerning thing to me, because she had paperwork in that pile identifying the child by a different name.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Isabella’s actually Arden? Is her first name?
DANA LAWRENCE: Mm-hmm.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Ira …
DANA LAWRENCE: She’s never been called that name.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: No, no, that’s fine.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: How’d you come up with the date of birth or the Social Security number you used?
DANA LAWRENCE: I just wrote a number and if you ask the landlord for the lease, you’ll see I wrote it very sloppy in case, whatever.
Detective Joseph Rousseau: I don’t think she took it — too serious about writing someone else’s Social Security number down on a leasing agreement because I feel like she’s been doing it for quite a while now.
Mark Hastbacka: I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years and … you just get experience with people lying to you. And we quickly figured out she was lying, with all the documents in front of us, and her story kept changing. And when we offered to help her out in this abuse situation, she was turning us down.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Your real name is Genevieve Logan Morgan. What’s your date of birth?
DANA LAWRENCE: That’s what I put there. That’s not true.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: This date of birth’s not true?
DANA LAWRENCE: I don’t know what date of birth … the name is not true.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA This name’s not true?
DANA LAWRENCE: No.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: You’re killing me, girl. You’re killing me.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: If your name is not Genevieve Logan Morgan.
DANA LAWRENCE: No.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: What is — save me the runaround. What is it?
DANA LAWRENCE: I’m not …There’s no runaround.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: What’s your real name?
DANA LAWRENCE: Dana …
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: D-A-N-A.
DANA LAWRENCE: Michelle. Yes, D-A-N-A.
DET. JOSEPH ROUSSEAU: Michelle.
DANA LAWRENCE: M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E. Lawrence. L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E.
Mark Hastbacka: In the police interview room, there’s one-way glass. And when she finally coughed up her real name, there were detectives on the other side of the glass that were documenting that. And they ran her record in the computer at the police department and found out that she was wanted … nationwide.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Don’t take this as an offense, but you’re not wanted anywhere, are you?
DANA LAWRENCE: Yes.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Where are you wanted at?
DANA LAWRENCE: Rhode Island.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: How long ago was that?
DANA LAWRENCE: Almost 11 years.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Eleven years looking over your shoulder.
That warrant from Rhode Island, as a fugitive from justice stemming from the forgery and credit card scams years before, was enough to send Dana immediately to jail. Hastbacka’s curiosity was piqued – he wanted to look more closely at Dana’s paperwork, computers and cell phones.
Mark Hastbacka: I gave her a form to sign saying that she’d given over the property voluntarily to the FBI and the police department.
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: Sign that with today’s date.
DANA LAWRENCE: Which should I sign it?
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: It doesn’t matter …
DANA LAWRENCE: No. What name?
SPECIAL AGENT HASTBACKA: You tell me. You got a couple to pick from.
After Dana was arrested, her daughter Isabella was placed into foster care. Dana was charged with using a false Social Security number and transferred to federal Marshals in Concord, New Hampshire – a drive Hastbacka wouldn’t soon forget.
Mark Hastbacka: She was taunting us. She’s in the backseat, handcuffed, and she just said, “Mark, you only know 20 percent of what I’ve done, and you’ll never be able to figure it out.” So, I just told her the challenge will be accepted.
Mark Hastbacka: This investigation was painstaking, but it was … enjoyable to prove her wrong. That we could figure out what she’s done without any digital footprint.
After Dana Lawrence’s 2017 arrest, FBI Agent Mark Hastbacka’s priority was locating the father of her then 4-year-old daughter Isabella – at one time known as Arden. He tracked down people who knew Dana when she gave birth. They remembered that the father’s name was Matt, he was from the Carolinas, and he had some connection to Massachusetts.
Mark Hastbacka: And the first one on my list was a gentleman by the name of Matthew Barnes, who was now living in Charleston, South Carolina.
Mark Hastbacka: He was a little bit skeptical. … He knew the daughter as Arden, but I was telling him now that I had a young lady in front of me by the name of Isabella. But he agreed to take a DNA test and come up to New Hampshire.
When tests showed he was indeed Isabella’s father, Matt fought for custody and eventually won.
Avery Little: I learned about Isabella when the FBI started to get involved.
Avery, who by now was living with her dad Kevin, had already learned the disturbing history of some of the scams her mother had allegedly committed.
Avery Little: I was 14. I was on the Internet and I’m trying to find her. And I came across a Ripoff Report and I just started reading everything. … And that’s when I realized like — it’s so much bigger than I think it is.
Avery had always remembered her older sister Kennedy but hadn’t seen her in years — until her dad tracked her down.
Avery Little: That was five years ago. We were separated for 10 years. We met five years ago.
Avery Little: Learning how to be sisters after all that time and after everything we’ve been through, was really hard for us.
Kennedy Lawrence: We really worked through it over the years and we have been able to kind of get that back. … We live together. And I really do feel like she is my sister.
Mark Hastbacka: All of her children that … we’ve been able to identify and locate all turned out pretty good.
Mark Hastbacka and Kennedy developed a particularly close bond.
Kennedy Lawrence: I guess we grow up thinking, like, police officers and FBI agents are very serious people. So, it was quite a shock to me that Mark is actually just the nicest family man that you could ever meet.
Hastbacka would play a key role in connecting Kennedy with her father Chris, that young student Dana met in New York back in 1996.
Kennedy Lawrence: If it weren’t for Mark, I probably would have never met my real father.
Mark Hastbacka: Kennedy tried to reach out for him several times and didn’t get a response. … In Chris’s defense, he thought he was getting set up again.
Chris had hired a law firm before Kennedy was even born to keep Dana from stalking him and his wealthy family.
Kennedy Lawrence: Because my mom was a scam artist, unfortunately, my father was not willing to be a part of my life.
Mark Hastbacka: So, I called Chris up … and we had, I guess, like a dad to dad conversation. … And I told him basically, “Hey, you’re her father. She wants to meet her father. … She’s not looking for anything from you. … She’s really turned out well. So, I think you need to stand up and be a good guy and give her a call. “… he did call her. … And I think they’re working through it.
Kennedy Lawrence: Mark actually did defend me to my father. … It felt great to be valued by someone, and to have someone stick up for me.
Dana was facing prison time on that charge of using a false Social Security number in New Hampshire.
Kennedy Lawrence: She did plead guilty in that case, not because she was remorseful. I know that she wasn’t. … She’ll always do what’s smartest and what is the best way to play the game.
At her sentencing, prosecutors tried to make a case for a long prison term by laying out all those scams Hastbacka had uncovered during his investigation.
Mark Hastbacka: They wanted to bring — various witnesses and victims forward, because it wasn’t just a simple case of a Social Security number used one time on a rental application and nobody was hurt. That’s how she was playing it out. … So, we needed to recreate all the lives that she’s destroyed along the way. … And also, to show how it impacted on these children’s lives.
Kennedy Lawrence: I learned that I was going to testify at this hearing, it was a very scary feeling. … And when I was there, I was saying everything right in front of my mom, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. And it was a very strange feeling seeing her in a jumpsuit and handcuffs.
Kennedy Lawrence: I told the judge that … stealing a Social Security card or an identity is nothing compared to everything else that she has done and the lives that she’s ruined. … She took so much from me, and not only me, but countless others.
Although the recommended maximum sentence for using a false Social Security number is 6 months, the judge sentenced Dana to 18 months in prison.
Kennedy Lawrence: When I heard that she was only getting a very short sentence, I was very disappointed. I felt kind of betrayed in a way.
Avery Little: I had so much hope that she would be locked away for a good amount of time like she deserves.
Mark Hastbacka: I felt it was appropriate for what we were able to charge her with, and the fact that despite all this criminal activity in her past, her criminal history of convictions is very, very little.
Dana Lawrence was released in August of 2018. She will be on parole until 2021, and still owes $28,000 in restitution.
Mark Hastbacka: There are a lot of gaps still in that story. … We know about … 70, 75 percent. But the story keeps going.
Mark Hastbacka: I got a call today, on the way here, from a gentleman that’s been involved with her for the last month. And she was just acting odd. Different things she’s saying don’t add up.
That man says that after they broke up, Dana called to tell him she was pregnant.
Kennedy Lawrence: I think that a part of her …has this need to just do it over and over again, just keep scamming people.
Mark Hastbacka: For those folks that are out there that run into her, or you may think it’s her … contact your local authorities. Because absent contacting them, she’s just going to keep getting away with it and move onto the next victim.
Kennedy Lawrence: If she were asked her side of the story on this, she would explain and give you every reason why she was right and that she is a victim and that everything she did was for a good reason.
We did ask Dana Lawrence to comment, and she declined.
Kennedy, now 23, and Avery, 19, are estranged from their mother. They’re trying to move on – together.
Kennedy Lawrence: I decided that I wasn’t going to let my mom be my life and that I was going to make my own life.
Avery Little: I’m really glad that we are where we are now. And I’m so lucky to have all my siblings in my life.
Avery Little: We won. We got a good family out of this and that’s the most important thing.