'Fake Frum' Con Man Scams More Than Dozen Orthodox Jews

13 More Victims Come Forward With Tales of Rip-Offs

Frum or Fake? More than a dozen victims say this man talked them out of money with elaborate Jewish-tinged tales of woe. Is he really an Orthodox Jew or simply a skilled con man?
Frum or Fake? More than a dozen victims say this man talked them out of money with elaborate Jewish-tinged tales of woe. Is he really an Orthodox Jew or simply a skilled con man?

By Frimet Goldberger

Published March 04, 2014.
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Reached by the Forward, Egan said he could not comment on the case. Sergeant Brendan Ryan, an NYPD spokesman, refused to comment.

Gernon, the Amtrak investigator, contacted the Forward after last month’s article was published. But he refused to comment further on the hunt for the suspected con man.

Although the con man alternates among various locations in Midtown Manhattan, he sticks to a similar modus operandi that tugs at the Jewish heartstrings of his victims.

He tells of a car that has been towed, no money on his person to pay for it, and a wife waiting at home in Westchester as the Sabbath nears. He speaks the Orthodox lingo well, quoting Torah verses on the fly, thereby invoking the victims’ sense of loyalty to a kindred Jew.

He promises to repay the sums, ranging from $20 to $300. As a show of trust, he shares his real cell phone number and a fake address, and even allows the person to photograph or videotape him. When the person calls to ask for repayment, the fraudster responds sympathetically at first, but grows increasingly belligerent as the victim persists.

In 2009, he was on the NYPD’s radar as “Glenn Goldstein.” Back then he hung around banks and ATM locations in Midtown, usually requesting small sums. In a video, shot in 2009, “Goldstein” is seen reciting into the camera, seemingly for the record: “I am Glenn Goldstein. You’re lending me $20, and I’ll repay you $20.” Several recent victims identified the man depicted in the video as the same person who scammed them.

The videomaker urges viewers to contact Detective Alexandra Paquette of the 17th Precinct on Manhattan’s East Side with tips about the con artist. Attempts to reach Paquette were unsuccessful.

Since taking back to the streets in recent months, the fraudster has become more audacious. Now sporting a “yeshivish” look – a black suit, white shirt, black kippah and a short beard — he is asking for larger sums than before and, at least sometimes, getting them.

“It was Erev Simchat Torah, and I was meeting a friend who had a layover in New York at Penn Station,” Josh Dembowitz wrote the Forward in an email. Dembowitz, a 23-year-old recent college grad, explained that he doesn’t generally wear a kippah outside of synagogue. But in this case, he donned one as he waited because the friend he was meeting, who did wear one, “would be eating kosher…and I wanted him to feel comfortable.”


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