Two weeks ago, mixed martial arts promoters Christos Piliafas and Scott DiPonio organized and conducted what they thought was a good deed when they raised nearly $1,500 to assist in funeral costs for the family of Chris Rowan, an amateur fighter who had died suddenly in an automobile accident.
So imagine the surprise when Piliafas and DiPonio saw Rowan’s mug shot on television this week citing him as a suspect in the robbery of Guns and Stuff in Sage Township, Michigan. The store’s owner was severely beaten and remained in serious but stable condition Friday in a Flint area hospital.
Apparently Rowan didn’t die in a late February car crash, as his girlfriend, Rosalinda Martinez, claimed.
“I almost passed out. It was literally that bad. My girlfriend looked at me and immediately just started crying,” DiPonio said, “I was in disbelief… It took me literally an hour until I could actually focus and think again. It was just unbelievable.”
Rowan’s faked death was exposed to the public on Friday when he, Martinez and a friend, Michael Bowman, were in a Michigan courtroom to hear the charges against them: armed robbery and assault with intent to murder.
“It made me sick to my stomach. I was furious. I was livid,” Piliafas told reporters, “It’s not so much about the money. It’s just how many people were involved in this scam… The little bit that I knew [about] this kid, I never would have thought that he’d try to pull some Machiavelli crap like that.”
Rowan was a rising local amateur fighter and according to DiPino his “work ethic and attitude were strong.” Rowan’s fifth career fight was scheduled for that night in February when DiPonio said Martinez called from Rowan’s cell phone to inform him that Rowan had just been killed in car wreck on the way to the event.
“I thought for sure Charlie was dead. I mean, these people were hysterically crying,” said DiPonio. Realizing that Rowan’s family would likely struggle to pay for the funeral arrangements, Piliafas and DiPonio helped raise $1,350 through their charity event, “Fight for Charlie”. A distraught Bowman, one of the accomplices in the gun shop robbery, showed up to collect the money.
“He (Bowman) looked me right in the eyes and took the cash and cried and came to my house and stayed the night,” DiPonio said.
This isn’t Rowan’s first run-in with the law. The heavyweight MMA fighter has past convictions for failing to register as a sex offender and the attempted delivery and manufacture of marijuana. Now he faces robbery and assault charges stemming from the gun shop incident. Additionally, Piliafas and DiPonio are planning to pursuit a fraud claim against Rowan.
“I want to press charges to the fullest extent,” Piliafas stated.
“He actually has my Diamond D MMA logo on his arm. He’s even branded,” DiPonio continued, “It’s only for a few guys that I allow to do that. That’s a pretty big deal. That’s why [the hoax] is just so devastating.”