Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Almost There

fishing-hooks1My sister, upon hearing the story, asked repeatedly, “Didn’t you know then?”  No, no and no. When a scam artist, especially one who has been operating for over 40 years plays you, you are hooked on his line. Nothing stands out to wave a red flag. I’m mixing metaphors but you get the picture.

I think I told the story already but I’ll recap it: To get ready for our move from West Virginia to Oregon we scheduled a trip a month before we expected to make the big move. We connected with a realtor in McMinnville, explaining we wanted to rent for a year to be sure we were in the right place before purchasing a house. We asked her to help make the appointments for the 10 or so properties I had pulled from Craigslist and that we would work with her in a year when we would buy something.  She assured us she would help.

But she never called any of the properties so we only got into the one that I had called directly. We met the owner there on a Sunday afternoon. We had gone to the church we expected to attend that morning , so we were dressed nicely. Another family with three small children also were at the house. Graham and I looked at each other, figuring we were the better risk; the rental would be ours.  And sure enough, he offered to get it ready for us in the month and I wrote him a check for first, last and security, about $2450.

About three weeks later Graham was knocked out of his chair when he read the online edition of the Portland newspaper that it had been a rental scam. Two friends met and each shared the exciting news that their adult kid was renting a house nearby…it was exciting until they shared the address. And then they went to the police.fraud-alert1

Okay, I’m not recapping, so I’ll shorten it now. Jerry was caught. His name was different than he had told us. He went to jail, posted bail. Court hearings were held bi-monthly to try to arrange full restitution to all victims. Each month his attorney reported some inability to follow through. The judge told him the next hearing it was put up the money or go to a jury trial. Jerry did not show up.  When he was apprehended he was put in jail with a bail too high to pay. And there he sat.

In the fall we were notified that there was real person involved with the name we had been given for the check and we appeared in court for that person’s plea bargain hearing. He is out on probation and is supposed to pay full restitution but golly gee, can’t get a job.  We’re not holding our breath.

So today was Jerry’s plea bargain hearing. He was facing a jury trial so a plea bargain was at least a known. A jury of his peers may have thrown a heavier book at him after all.

So, now Jerry is going to prison for 11 years. The $15,000 bond will be prorated to all the victims, as it is not the full amount that needs to be repaid.  The rest of the outstanding money will be supposedly  paid when Jerry gets out of prison (and gets a job hahahahaha). Of course, the other guy is supposed to pay restitution, so perhaps he will be able to since the amount he will be responsible for will be lower.light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel

So, that is the story…not quite finished. But at least almost there. I want to share a couple of impressions I got sitting in court listening to pleas and sentencing about six times in the past 15 months.

We have a lot of people in our society who want what they want when they want it. They don’t think about making a plan to achieve a goal. Hell, they probably make few if any long term goals. They don’t think about how their actions affect anyone else…until they get caught. I heard a lot of apologies, even from sociopathic Jerry. Yeah, he’s sorry. He’s sorry he got caught.

The judge today was a new person. I liked her. She talked loudly and clearly and simply. She told the person what she thought, good bad or indifferent. She told Jerry she didn’t believe he would ever learn anything but perhaps, in prison, his effort to scam people would be limited to others in prison. The prior judges had seemed to be way too lenient setting up an action plan after listening to the defendant’s sob story.

Many of these people seem to be in a revolving door, unable or unwilling to earn their living, make their way, follow simple rules.  The rules are not meant for them.

If you know anyone who is in this kind of rut and I am offending you, please explain your perspective. All I know is how this event affected us, and we were in the best financial position of all the victims and yet that loss of $2450 for all this time has stopped us from something important. Many of the others have still not recovered and have had to move in with family, thereby affecting more people.  uneven_scales_sm



The Wheels of Justice are Slow

Back in July Graham and I flew from West Virginia to Oregon to locate rental housing for our move the end of the summer. We suspected we would be stuck paying for an extra month of rent but it was the only time we could get there.  We contacted two Realtors to help up in the two towns we were considering and I sent them a list of properties we wanted to see.

Most of the rentals were considerably higher priced than we wanted to budget; certainly higher than the mortgage we had been paying in West Virginia. The relative value of real estate in Oregon is higher and so rentals are higher.

As it turned out we got into only 3 properties and one was an appointment I had set up directly from the ad on Craigslist. What was attractive about this house was the rent was lower, and although it sounded like it had all the components we hoped for, we understood it might be a bit smaller than we wanted. We figured we’d be in it only temporarily until we could be sure where we wanted to buy a house.

So, on the first Sunday we were in Oregon we met Jerry. There was another family there also to see the house. They had four little kids and Graham and I figured we “mature” people would look better to the landlord than a family of six, with four under the age of seven, so we were not surprised he said he would rent to us.

Little did we know that he rented the house to both families….and about 20 other families as well, taking our deposits of first and last month and $500 security. A fairly sizable chunk of change.

Graham found out a few weeks later when he was reading the Portland Oregon newspaper online. The problem had been discovered when two friends met and one was excited to share that her daughter was moving to town. When she shared the address, the other woman slowly responded, that is where my friend is renting a house. They went to the police.

We contacted the police as well. They were thrilled that Jerry had accepted a check from us. He also had signed lease documents with at least one of the other families. These signed papers made it much more substantial than people claiming lost cash.  Jerry was apprehended and put into jail.

The District Attorney’s office has been keeping us informed. We found out that Jerry finally was released on bail a few days ago, in time for today’s hearing.Yamhill CC

For those of you who have lived on the straight and narrow and never attended a court hearing let me assure you it is not as compelling a drama as depicted on television. First of all, the words are amplified primarily for the judge, attorneys, clerks and other first line players to hear, not the audience.  Anything any of the spectators can hear is gratis.

So what I did hear makes me believe a plea bargain is in the works. I heard Jerry’s attorney posture that he had not received adequate notice about the counter by the State. The District Attorney assured the judge that the notice had been sent in writing and by email so many days ago. But she leaned over and spoke softly to the defense attorney who then spoke up to the judge and said “It appears we are further apart than I thought.”

I have no idea what the State wants but this is the minimum I want: each party to get all their money back, every cent of it. I want a spoken apology by Jerry to each family, one at a time, naming our names and all the members of the household’s name, saying he understands he stole our money and it was wrong and he is sorry he caused us hardship. I want some kind of community service where he must work hard….since he played at being a landlord maybe make him work on fixing up houses that are publicly owned.  That is what I think would be fair, considering he has been doing this kind of stuff since the 1970s apparently.justice not blind

Meanwhile, we will have the next hearing November 18. Wonder what kind of excuse the defense attorney will use to get the case continued then.