Tourist Falls for Age-Old Scam, Loses Thousands in Equipment

One of the more common practical jokes-which seems to work just as well on 70-year-olds as on 7-year-olds-involves pointing at some object in the sky and then, while your victim is looking up, swiping his or her dessert.

A thief used a variation on this scam on Sept. 13 to steal thousands of dollars’ worth of camera equipment from a representative of a Russian television station, who was staying at the Bentley Hotel at 500 East 62nd Street.

The victim, a Moscow resident, told the police he’d been sitting in the hotel’s lobby around 9:20 a.m. with the equipment propped against the couch, approximately five feet away from him. At some point, he was joined by a stranger in a polo shirt and slacks who pointed up at the ceiling and advised the complainant to look. It’s not known what, if anything, the suspect found so captivating. However, it briefly caused the victim to lose eye contact with his property. A few minutes later, when he thought to check on it again, it-along with the preppy stranger-was gone.

The equipment included a $15,000 Sony video camera, a $6,500 lens, a $600 battery and a $500 light. A hotel doorman said that he was in back helping a guest at the time and didn’t see anything.

Docs Get Robbed

Doctors, as a group, enjoy a not-altogether-undeserved reputation for having lousy bedside manners. But it’s hard to blame them once you consider the behavior of some of their patients, as two Aug. 22 incidents suggest.

In the first, at the New York/Cornell Medical Center, a doctor reported that she had left one of her patients alone in the office. When she returned, the patient started acting “irrational and nervous.”

It’s entirely possible that the reason the patient ran out of the hospital before her consultation was completed-which is what happened next-was because she was irrational. The doctor, however, apparently believes that it was because the patient had just stolen her purse-containing credit cards, a New York Sports Club pass, pay stubs, medication, sunglasses and her hospital ID and beeper-that she was acting so curiously.

The victim, a 38-year-old Forest Hills resident, told the police that the suspect had attempted to make numerous withdrawals from her account using her HSBC A.T.M. card. The card was declined three times, but the perp succeeded in purchasing merchandise at a store and charging a meal at a diner (both in the Bronx) with the stolen credit cards.

Among the downsides of stealing from your doctor (besides the fact that they may try to vaccinate you with Drano on your next visit) is the fact that he or she probably knows where you live. This physician knew just that, and offered to share the information with the police.

In the second incident, a doctor located at 635 Park Avenue reported that one of her patients went into her office and filched a Demerol prescription. Furthermore, she neglected to pay for some unspecified surgery. When the doctor tried to contact the patient by phone, she got no answer. The perp, a 44-year-old East 79th Street resident, eventually called back. However, she refused to return the prescription.

Cutlery Walks

As any Yorkville resident can tell you, the Comfort Diner on 86th Street between Lexington and Third avenues has quietly become a neighborhood landmark in recent years. Nonetheless, nobody could have guessed it would become so “in” that customers would start stealing the silverware, as a man and a woman did on Aug. 25.

The suspects, who (perhaps taking the diner’s name to heart) apparently felt quite at home at the restaurant, paid a visit at 8:45 p.m. The woman was observed by the staff removing silverware from the tables and placing it in her handbag. At the same time, her companion entered the kitchen and attempted to use the telephone.

When the couple was understandably asked to leave, one of them allegedly responded to an employee with an unneighborly “Shut the fuck up” before departing. They left toting three forks, three knives and three spoons.

Window Dressing

It’s probably a good rule of thumb, if you live in Manhattan, never to look too closely when you peer out your window-you never know what will be looking back, as one East 77th Street resident discovered on Sept. 4.

The victim was closing her window when she spotted a man seated in his car, located on 77th Street between First and York avenues, staring at her and pleasuring himself. The perp was also observed by a police officer, who arrested him for public lewdness. Additionally, the suspect was charged with driving (or rather standing) without a license-a far milder offense, it would seem, than, um, car-jacking.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at rgard135@aol.com.