Crime Blotter

Pulling a Con in Six Easy Steps!

Cops Recover How-To Manual

Maybe it’s not as big a deal as catching Osama or Saddam, but the cops at the 19th Precinct have come into possession of the con-artist playbook-the actual, step-by-step instruction manual.

It happened on Oct. 2, when Police Officer Walter Lapinski-known around the station house for his sharp vision (particularly when it comes to detecting scams in progress)-spotted a middle-aged man approach an elderly woman at 88th Street and Second Avenue and strike up a conversation with her.

“Officer Lapinski sees things other people wouldn’t see,” proudly explained Deputy Inspector James Rogers, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer, attributing almost supernatural powers to his cop.

What Officer Lapinski saw was the suspect showing the woman, a 74-year-old East 93rd Street resident, a wallet. The woman, however, apparently wasn’t impressed and tried to wave him away. Within moments, the two were joined by a second woman-Officer Lapinski knew from voluminous past experience that this was the suspect’s accomplice, masquerading as an innocent passer-by-to whom the male passed the conversational ball and then walked away.

It was at this point that Officer Lapinski, assisted by members of the 19th Precinct anti-crime unit, stepped in and discovered that the group of crooks-which included a second male-was carrying the standard tools of the con artist’s trade. Among the recovered evidence were “numerous forged Glen Cove Luxury Condominium Corporation stock certificates,” which were part of a different scam. The cops also found “several pieces of cut-up newspaper bound together to simulate the appearance of U.S. currency,” which, undoubtedly, were intended as the bait in this operation.

The perps had most likely hoped to leave the wallet-stuffed with the fake cash-with the victim for “safekeeping.” In exchange, they allegedly wanted good-faith money from the victim, guaranteeing her a 50 percent share of the eventual proceeds.

But the most important evidence the cops recovered-something that’s not typically found in a con man’s bag of tricks-was the manual: a memo book that spelled out in meticulous handwriting how to run the scam. (Though a con is the sort of crime you might want to think twice about committing if you still need to carry a cheat sheet.)

The manual’s instructions included the following: “Try to drop, ‘We found this wallet-why don’t we split it-half and half-take the money out of your bank account.’” It also tackles the back story: “‘Excuse me, but you dropped your pocketbook … Is there a hole in your bag? This isn’t yours?’”

“Open!” the manual continues, meaning open the wallet for the victim to see inside. The con man is then instructed to say: “This package is full of money. What do you think we should do?” According to the notebook, this is the cue for the female accomplice to make her entrance and recite the following spiel: “Turn it in to the police,” she first suggests, and then, after further consideration changes her mind, saying, “New York has a fine police department but there are some bad apples in the barrel. Let’s go somewhere off the street so we can take a better look inside.”

It couldn’t be immediately determined whether the cops interpreted the con artist’s critique of the NYPD as a case of the glass (or barrel) being half-full or half-empty. Either way, they decided to haul the suspects in on a bevy of charges, including attempted grand larceny and possession of a forged instrument.

The notebook was found in the jacket pocket of one of the males. “Now we have the answer key,” Deputy Inspector Rogers deadpanned.

Road-Rage Rules

There are apparently still among us those innocents who subscribe to a gentleman’s code of conduct that assumes opponents won’t throw punches at the face of a person who wears glasses, and other such outdated ideas.

A 25-year-old Pennsylvania man falls into that wistful category because on Oct. 6, when he got whacked with the side mirror of a passing van at the northwest corner of 76th Street and First Avenue, he apparently expected an apology.

Undoubtedly, he was surprised-and perhaps a bit disappointed-when his adversary, described as a 6-foot-2, 250-pound male, got out of his vehicle and punched him in the face instead, knocking him to the ground.

However, the victim’s essential faith in the goodness of human nature remained untarnished-demonstrated by the fact that he then stepped in front of the van to prevent his assailant from leaving the scene, assuming that he would hesitate to run him over.

But run him over the perp did, dragging the victim a full block northbound on First Avenue before fleeing the scene. While one might imagine that such an experience would leave the involuntary passenger with bumps and bruises (not to mention in a coma), the assault complaint that was eventually filed made no mention of the victim either requesting or receiving medical attention.

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