"It's just bizarre," said Christos Piliafas, "Caged Aggression" Owner and pro fighter. "The best way to describe this whole situation is just... bizarre."
Three people with Traverse City ties were charged today in the robbery of a downstate gun shop, and now, they could face even more charges connected to an alleged fake death plot in Grand Traverse County.
Charles Rowan, Michael Bowman, and Rosalinda Martinez are facing charges of assault with intent to murder, attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and felony firearm. Police say all three were part of the robbery
Monday afternoon at the "Guns & Stuff" shop in Gladwin County. The owner suffered a head injury and had to be hospitalized.
But the story doesn't end there. Earlier this month, the Mixed Martial Arts community in Traverse City held a benefit at Streeters to help the family of a fellow fighter, Charles Rowan, who they thought died in a car crash.
Organizers of the benefit say they can't believe someone would go to such lengths to get money from unsuspecting friends.
After a trip out of the country for MMA fighter Christos Piliafas, coming off of a loss: the death of a fellow m-m-a fighter, known to friends as Charlie Rowan. On February 2, 2013, on his way to an MMA fight at Streeters in Traverse City, Rosalinda Martinez, Rowan's girlfriend, delivered heart-breaking news.
"She told us that Charlie had been in a terrible accident on his way to the show, and that he had to be flown to an Ann Arbor hospital," said Scott Diponio, Diamond D Fight Team Owner.
A tight-knit family of fighters, Piliafas and friends organized a benefit to raise money for Rowan's grieving family.
"After the event, we all felt really bad because Charlie's family didn't have a lot of money," said Piliafas.
"We helped him because the family was so convincing," said "Big John" Yeubanks, Owner of Big John's MMA. "They came to us crying."
They came up with more than $1,300, including community donations, and even attended a memorial at Rowan's family's home.
"At the memorial, the were 8 and 9-year-old kids, Charlie's mother, his brother, grandmother... Pretty much the entire family," said Diponio. "Very much in grieving... They put his hat on, crying. It was very emotional."
Then, a rude awakening when flashes of mugshots, phone calls and texts from friends saying Rowan was very much alive.
"It about knocked me over," said Diponio. "I literally about passed out. It was the most unbelievable feeling. At first, I was in shock. I couldn't believe it actually happened, and I tried to make sense of it all."
Not only was Rowan alive, but in jail, along with Martinez and another friend, Michael Bowman, in the robbery of a Gladwin County gun shop that left the owner, beaten, bleeding on the floor. Bowman is now a known conspirator.
"We wanted to believe it wasn't true," said Diponio. "It was kind of a slap in the face that, 'oh my gosh,' this can't be happening to us."
"They had a very, very convincing story," said Yeubanks. "It really amazes me how low people will go to take advantage of someone and take advantage of a community's kindness."
Piliafas, Yeubanks and Diponio say this may just be the beginning. They say they know of at least one other event benefitting Rowan's family through the United Fight League in Flint, raising about $500.
So far, Diponio plans to file charges of felony larceny over $1,000, and possible fraud charges against Rowan and his family. Yeubanks is meeting with detectives in Midland next week to file a police report.