Monday, October 6, 2014

Quintessential Confidence Man

I don't think I've ever gotten more phone calls -- not for murders or rapes or, well, anything -- than I did about this guy: by all reports the quintessential con man. It started with a simple theft by swindle of the St. Paul Hotel, a couple thousand dollars. In the following weeks, I made contact with two ex-girlfriends who said he'd taken them for tens of thousands.

At first it was hard to believe -- but after some follow-up, the stories were all the same. In time, five ex-girlfriends, none of whom knew each other, all said the exact same thing:

1.) He met them online, posing as a millionaire.

2.) Took them out house hunting, going so far as to put in purchase agreements, for million-dollar homes.

3.) Would show documents and screen-shots proving his riches/debts paid.

4.) After weeks, months, and in one case years, it became evident he never had any money, and had sucked their funds away. The purchase agreements were never followed up on. Any access he had to his girlfriends' finances was exploited.

He was released by the judge, and never showed up for sentencing. But I have a feeling he'll turn up someday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Kinda Folks You Meet: Part 3

It took three months to get James Fields to talk to me, and I don't think he ever called or returned a call.  I didn't take it personally, though, and the amount he opened up in the end was surprising, given his history.

James founded The East Side Boys, one of the city's two largest street gangs.  I have a hard time trusting anyone, but James has a certain candor to him.  Maybe I do trust him a little, though I got plenty of calls telling me I shouldn't.  You be the judge:

You can read the whole profile here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Kinda Folks You Meet: Part 2

Here's another night shift lover: one of the spunkiest cabbies you'll ever meet. I'll probably do a video a month with Chey; she's a blast. As she notes, only 1 in 400 cabbies is female, but she handles the screwball drunks pretty well.

The Kinda Folks You Meet

Been doing a few ridealongs with people that actually like the night shift, and worked up a few videos. Here are a few: two paramedics that much prefer the traffic-free streets and crazy calls of the after hours.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Somewhere to go

So we're not supposed to know anything about juveniles in the justice system: their cases are off-limits to info requests, you don't see their names in criminal complaints, and nobody is authorized to say squat about them.

But occasionally you hear things. Because they seem to be the cases that affect cops the most. 

Take tonight for example: an 11-year-old kid who broke a window and pulled a knife in a foster home, and the others won't take him because he's already been through all of them. He's yelling, "I just wanta go somewhere where they love me!" Yeah, those things get to people.

He's probably going to stay in juvie tonight. Even with all the new rules emptying out the juvenile detention centers, even if he tests out on the intake -- which he normally would -- they're probably going to have to take him anyway. No place to put him. Amazingly enough, a cop or two actually wants to take him home too.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thanks where it's due

I remember growing up, at the end of the night when there wasn't anything better to do, we’d ask each other who our heroes were. Eddie Vedder, Gandhi, heck I was an 80’s child. But a year ago I met a new one.

I read about Amanda Hocking on a website somewhere, but no large American newspaper had done a story on her. It was like she didn’t exist, as far as the U.S. media was concerned. Papers in Germany and the U.K. were writing all sorts of things about her, but as for us… barely a peep. Despite the fact that she’d made over a million, at the age of 26, all on her own, publishing books online. Kinda sounded like a story.

I was warned to be skeptical: our book reviewer, who’d been in the industry for decades, had told her editors -- who then told me -- to be wary of the numbers. She’d heard all kinds of claims from self-published authors, and she was pretty much jaded for life. I didn’t blame her, in a way.

Anyway, I asked the editor of my paper if I could drive down to Austin to do a story on this girl. And she was a girl, to me. She was young – 26. Living in a house her parents owned, half-finished, with bare wood and holes in the staircase so you could see the ground. You could see the struggles, just looking around.

She was open, honest, and talking to her, a strange thing happened: I didn’t get jealous. She so deserved it. Our competing paper, also a large metropolitan daily, hadn't treated her so well. Which didn’t surprise me. But she didn’t seem bitter.

She became a hero to me. If this girl, working as an assistant to the disabled making $15,000 a year while every friend of hers was getting married and moving on to real jobs and real careers, could push out five books a year on faith and Red Bull and Spaghettios, what the hell was I doing?

I never did read any of her books, but she’ll probably remain a hero of mine forever.

Anyway, here's the first big story published about Amanda Hocking in an American paper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A little reading to take the edge off

So after burning gallons of midnight oil, I went ahead and pushed out a novel that has absolutely no relation to my day-to-day reality. One, I live in the frigid Midwest, and it's set in the Arizona desert. Plus there's a space station that reaches from the earth to the heavens, so there's that.

But there is a little homicide and fugitive manhunts and ... well anyway, I'm happy with it, and I hope other folks will be too. You can find it on Amazon here.