More than a dozen Orthodox Jews have come forward to complain they were scammed by a ‘fake frum’ con artist in New York City who tricked them into giving him substantial sums of money with tales of bad fortune.
The fraudster, who often approaches his targets near rail stations as the Sabbath nears, proffers panicked appeals to help a stranded fellow Jew who must get home before sundown, after which traditional Jewish law forbids travel. He may offer a bogus home address or even an actual cell phone number. But he refuses to repay his debts as promised.
Amtrak Police confirmed they are searching for the con man after the Forward published his photo and a story detailing his scam on February 17.
“He’s a person I’m investigating,” said George Gernon, an investigator for the Amtrak Police Department, which probes crimes in and around Penn Station, an area where several people said they were approached.
Since then, 13 more victims have detailed encounters with the man. In many of these, the man identified himself as “Ethan Schwartz.” But the fraudster, who has successfully been doing business as early as 2009, has also identified himself as “Glenn Goldstein,” “Dave Cohen” and “Chaim Goldman,” among other names.
So far, according to several victims, the New York City police appear to be taking little interest in their complaints.
One victim said police at the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn refused to take a report, indicating the $80 taken was too small an amount.
After another victim complained to police at the Midtown South Precinct about the scam in 2013, Detective Desmond Egan indicated that he was on this case, and had a mug shot of the man. But a few months after this incident, Egan informed the victim that the case was closed. “Unable to locate Goldstein,” he wrote.
“Go sue him,” another detective recommended, according the victim. “It’s a civil matter.”