Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Pros of Being Conned

So remember how I've mentioned, in passing, the couchsurfer who was staying with us?

I believe I mentioned there was absolutely no way in which it could go wrong.

Well, hold on to your cowboy hats, because he will steal them if you don't. Seriously. Because apparently he's a con artist and attempted to rip us off in a manner that makes him eligible for one of those Dumbest Criminal stories you hear on the radio sometimes.

Let me back up and remind you that Jonathan stayed with us for a total of four weeks (yes, a month), which you might recognise as a length of time much greater than a weekend. But he was unobtrusive and most of his shittier traits were forgivable ones. In fact, there were really only three downsides to his personality: he was a braggart, he didn't brush his teeth, and he loved insulting people but refused to take insults.  (You know the type.  They're really crass and in-your-face but get butthurt if you try to exchange teasing.  They're the kid in elementary school who was sort of chubby and a total tattletale.)

The first one was really, really noticeable, by the way: among other things, he was rich, he did sound editing for the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, he was one of the founders of, he does charity work in Africa, he was in the British special forces, his uncle was the comedian Jim Jeffries, he's close personal friends with Dane Cook, he holds a Guinness World Record, et cetera. 

He lives vicariously... through himself.  On every continent in the world, there is a sandwich named after him. His hands feel like rich brown suede.  And so on.  And so forth.

 The thing is, though his claims were far-fetched, we still trusted that he was a decent guy. I mean, if you're in a bar and someone ends a story with “...and the the prostitute paid me!” you don't call them out on it even though you know it's bull. You cheer them and give them a high-five because that's how some stories are, and it seemed to me like Jonathan was a sad, down-on-his-luck sort of guy who spent weeks with strangers because he didn't seem to have friends or anywhere to go or do. So we just chalked his tall tales up to low self-esteem and a misguided way to try to impress us and connect with us, and we let it go.

And I guess at the end of the day I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least in my words and actions, even if I think they're full of shit.

Now we get to the crazy part.

Remember, hats.  Hold on to them.

So a week before he left, Andrew tactfully told him we'd like him to stay “one more week,” meaning we expected him to leave on Monday. Well, Jonathan agreed, and Andrew and I were surprised to discover that we were feeling intense relief—Jonathan had overstayed his welcome and we hadn't noticed, but now that we had a date of departure, we were pretty excited.

Monday rolled around and we asked Jonathan if he needed a ride anywhere, to which he replied that he wasn't leaving until Tuesday. Figuring one more day wouldn't matter, we shrugged and gritted our teeth and said okay.

Tuesday rolled around and Jonathan said he couldn't leave until Wednesday. This time, it was not okay. For one thing, we had another surfer coming on Wednesday and I wanted at least 24 hours to get the house in order. So we compromised and said Jonathan could stay on Jack's couch. Jack lives a short ways south of us in a five-bedroom home occupied by a bunch of college-aged tools.

Jonathan departed, and Andrew and I went out to celebrate at a bar. We didn't want to admit it because it made us sound like jerks, but we were so glad to get rid of him, because there's only so many “light-hearted” insults you can take, coupled with increasingly bizarre bragging.

When we got home, however...

"Boy, am I glad to see you guys.  We're out of toilet paper."

...Jonathan was lying in the bed.

He explained that Jack's house was far too busy with people coming and going, and he couldn't sleep, and he would leave Wednesday. Since it was after midnight, we were too tired to care and went to bed. The next morning I woke up, looked out the door, and saw my car parked on the wrong side of the street.

It's worth mentioning here that Jonathan had become increasingly entitled the longer he stayed, and especially the last week was inclined to help himself to pretty much anything in the house.

Jonathan had taken my car, sans permission, to enter our home, uninvited, after leaving late to begin with after we'd made it clear we needed him to leave.

And he'd parked it on the wrong side of the street.

In a panic, I called Andrew to get my car keys, since the car didn't appear to be ticketed yet. Then I realised Jonathan was the one who would have the keys. I woke him and he told me he'd already moved the car.

Looking out the window, though, the car was parked on the wrong side of the street. “Are you sure?” I asked doubtfully.

“No, I'm not sure, I must've moved some other car!” he sneered sarcastically. “Yeah, I moved the damn car, what kind of stupid question is that?”

I drove him to Union Station, feeling miffed but also relieved. When I got home and reached into the glove box to get the parking pass, however, I found...

...Jesus, whom I promptly accepted as my personal Lord and Saviour.

...a parking ticket.

Flabbergast, I checked the date and time. It was from that day. That morning. Jonathan had gotten a parking ticket, hid it, and lied to me about it. More than any other thing, he'd bragged about his unflagging honesty, and he had lied right to my face, and been rude about it.

Furious, I told Andrew and Jack my story, to which Jack replied, “I can't believe that! Jonathan was so generous! I mean, remember how he took my computer to the repair shop and offered to pay—oh my God, he stole my computer!

See, right before he left, he took a computer that Jack's mother had sent him which vague promises of getting it an upgrade. Jack had taken ill when Jonathan had taken his property, so he never really protested much, assuming it would be returned or accounted for before Jonathan's departure.

Now it gets even better: a day or two later we discovered Andrew's account had been overdrawn because Jonathan had not only taken the computer but Andrew's chequebook, and he'd written out several fake, personal checks for hundreds of dollars, signing them with Andrew's signature.

“But wait, Julie,” protests the reader. “How is Jonathan the dumb one here? Sounds to me like you and Andrew got conned.”

Ah-ha. It does initially sound that way, doesn't it? I suppose it was “stupid” of us to trust someone who had been living with us for four weeks. Honestly, after you open your home to someone, you don't expect that sort of shit, particularly after he'd gotten to know us, particularly considering how generous we'd been. But alright, I can see your point. Perhaps we were stupid. So why do I accuse Jonathan of being the stupid one?

But let's see what happened:

The cheques, obviously forged, were refunded to us, along with the overage charges. So we lost no money. However, we now have print evidence of Jonathan's crime. Cheque forgery is a felony unless I'm mistaken, and the bozo left a paper trail of what he did. Strike one.

The computer was easily located. Unable to turn off either his incessant bragging or his pathological lying, Jonathan loved to talk about being a big Mac user, and he told us about all his great connections and all the Mac stores he liked. So we called one of the stores he'd mentioned, read them the serial number of the computer he'd taken, and retrieved it at no cost to us. It is worth noting here that he sold the computer for less than $300, and allowed them to take a fingerprint, which is standard procedure for many pawn and computer resale stores. Yes, that's right: he used his real name and allowed them to take a fingerprint. Strike two.

And now, ladies and gentleman, you see that Jack, Andrew, and I (to say nothing of the owner of the Mac store, who got ripped off of a couple hundred bucks) all got to file police reports, complete with evidence, fingerprints, photographs, and even the guy's real name.

Protip: If you're going to be a con artist, for crying out loud, be better at it.

The only thing we really lost was the $73 from the parking ticket, which we paid without any problem. We went out on a nice date that night, bought a pizza with truffles, and fucked like weasels when we came home. 

 Not so cute now, are they?  Little perverts.

Meanwhile, somewhere out there, Jonathan, a fat, balding 30-something-yr-old with the most horrific breath imaginable is sleeping on couches, struggling to buy cereal, and willing to go to federal prison for a couple hundred dollars. So you see now why I think he's sort of sad. As Andrew put it, our feelings at this point are “a mixture of pity and disgust.” Who wants to live their life like that: without honour, friends, or even a damn place to hang their hat?

See how I brought it all back to hats again?

In case you are wondering, our second couchsurfer stayed only the weekend, was gracious and fun, super polite, and we missed her when she went. She was a breath of fresh air after Jonathan, in some ways literally. But we agreed we're going on a couchsurfing hiatus for the forseeable future.

In other news I've worked my job all week and had loads of fun, and I get my first paycheck this Wednesday. Another thing Jonathan will never appreciate: the value of hard work and the luxury of consistent income.

Coming next post: The Best and Worst Speakeasies in Los Angeles, and more updates from work!

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