The girls liked him, and so did the dog.
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A woman named Cindi Pardini, however, had used her full name. Most of the women quoted were anonymous, or referred to only by their first name. He tended to look for women in their 40s or 50s, preferably divorced, preferably with a couple of kids and a dog or two.
He told her he was a lawyer with a big downtown firm; in reality, he was hiding out from a warrant for defrauding the Saint Paul Hotel. Derek Alldred had married a woman, pretended to pay the bills on their home, then vanished after it was foreclosed on. Linda handled the package gingerly; it felt like a missive from an alternate reality. By the spring ofMissi Brandt had emerged from a rough few years with a new sense of solidity. T he police released Derek after 48 hours, telling Linda they wanted to build a stronger case.
I bought a boat and took my sister and her kids out on it todayhe wrote. He conned a of victims within the state of Minnesota. Con artists have long known that a uniform bolsters an illusion, and Derek was fond of dressing up in scrubs and military fatigues. A few months into their relationship, she missed a shift at work and got fired.
Plus, dating him was fun. Missi sat in her living room, alternately furious at him for letting her down and at herself for getting her hopes up enough to be let down. Missi felt a wave of relief, both that Richie was okay and that her suspicions were unwarranted.
They talked about their kids he had two; she had threetheir divorces, their sobriety. He found them a house to rent in an upscale suburb of St. Recently, though, the relationship had been rockier. Missi felt ready for a serious relationship again, so she made a profile on OurTime. It was touching. Missi thought it was a fun coincidence. Richie mentioned that his cousin Vicki worked for the same airline as Missi.
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After a few months, Linda lost her job with a financial-services company, but Rich made it seem okay. Linda herself was an engineer at a nuclear-power plant.
Americans were meeting more strangers than ever before, and thanks to a growing economy, they had more money than generations. She was living with her preteen daughters in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, and working as a flight attendant. On the Fourth of July, he sent her a picture of himself looking tan and happy, his arms around Missi and her kids on the boat that Linda had paid for.
Con men thrive in times of upheaval. Missi sat down on the couch and slowly read every word of every article she could find: Derek Alldred had posed as a firefighter and scammed hospitals out of drugs. The country was rapidly urbanizing; ly far-flung places were newly linked by railro. The judge denied the motion. After Missi explained what Derek had done, Vicki agreed to pass on any information she learned. My life has calmed down, want to try again? When she finally did meet him in person, her relief was even more profound. The longer they kept dating, though, the more problems cropped up.
He was always canceling plans, or not showing up when he was supposed to. On their first date, after the server set down their plates, Rich closed his eyes and said a beautiful prayer. It took a bit of detective work, but eventually Missi tracked Linda down on Facebook and sent her a message. And she talked with one of his childhood friends, who said that Derek, who had grown up in a wealthy suburb of San Francisco, was trouble from an early age. While Linda sorted through her finances, her sister-in-law delved into old news articles about Derek, looking for any information that might be useful in bringing him to justice.
Richie had lingering medical problems from his time in the service, and Missi was constantly having to drop him off at or pick him up from the hospital. Richie was tall and charming, a good talker and a good listener who seemed eager for a relationship. Check out the full table of contents and find your next story to read. A tech professional living in San Francisco, she said Derek had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars andairline miles from her over the course of a few months in She was in touch with about a dozen victims.
At 10 p. F or years, Derek had evaded punishment by moving around; local police had limited ability to chase him across state lines. He solved that problem for her, announcing that he was once again in so much pain, he needed to go to the emergency room. When she saw the red-and-blue lights through her window, she sent Missi a message, letting her know that Derek was in custody. It got to feel as if every text from him was an announcement of some new disaster: He had to check his daughter Sarah into rehab; he had to put his beloved shih tzu, Thumper, to sleep.
The second daughter, Sarah, was a fabrication.
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He was a career naval officer, an Afghanistan veteran who was finishing his doctorate in political science at the University of Minnesota. She sat up for hours. Through a family member, Vicki heard that Derek had left Minnesota and was hiding out with his mother in Sedona, Arizona—where, lo and behold, he had an outstanding warrant for an old DUI. Paul over the summer. A mericans love a con man. If anything, Derek seems to have preferred intelligent women; his victims included a doctor and a couple of women who worked in tech. At 45, she was three years sober and on the leeward side of a stormy divorce.
Of those, more than 14, were for relationship fraud, a that has more than doubled since After weeks or months of intimate s, texts, and phone calls, the putative boyfriend will urgently need money to replace a broken laptop or buy a plane ticket home. But JoAnn still regrets not taking Derek to court. When, a couple of days later, she finally opened the links Missi had sent, she realized why.
He had uniforms and medals and a stack of framed, official-looking awards: a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, a seal Team One membership, a certificate of completion for a naval underwater-demolition course. Joy decided to give him another chance. Maybe he could put her and the girls on his university insurance.
When Missi googled Derek Alldredhalf a dozen mug shots of Richie—Derek—popped up, alongside news articles with alarming phrases such as career con man and long history of deception. Cindi added Linda to a group text with several other victims, and Linda found some comfort in swapping stories with them, and in seeing that they were far from stupid.
About six months later, Derek was released. They began tracking his progress across the country, using social media to share updates and information—and to warn others.
Richie had a taste for nice things—expensive restaurants, four-star hotels—and he always insisted on paying. He used different names and occupations, but the identities he took on always had an element of financial prestige or manly valor: decorated veteran, surgeon, air marshal, investment banker.
Richie told her he was on vacation in Hawaii, but they planned to meet up as soon as he got back. Cindi was in touch with one of his earliest victims, a woman who had met Derek in the early s and had been convinced that he was a medical student conducting important cystic-fibrosis research.
Rich drank a lot, and his constant trips to the hospital—which he blamed on the persistent effects of his war wounds—were exhausting. As she read, Missi began to feel city girl dating a Atlantic IA boy, as if her body was having trouble physically assimilating the idea that her boyfriend was not a scholar and war hero, but rather a serial con man. Derek seems to have counted on the fact that credit-card abuse is often not taken all that seriously by law enforcement when the victim and the perpetrator know each other.
By then he was long gone. When Missi got fed up— Why did I get out of a crappy marriage just to be in this crappy relationship? The wallet also contained a couple of credit cards belonging to someone named Linda. She broke it off with him but stayed friendly. He had hour-long phone conversations—ostensibly with his admiral, his faculty supervisor, or his daughter Sarah, three people who turned out not to exist—during which Linda could hear a voice on the other end of the line.
Richie leaped into provider mode. The age of the internet, with its infinitude of strangers and swiftly evolving social mores, has also been good for con men. The women later found out that he had actually been living at the shelter before he moved in with Linda. Derek stands out for how remarkably prolific he was: He often had two or three separate relationship scams going at a time. Linda dropped him off and then called the police on her way home. At three in the morning, Derek told her he would catch an Uber home, and Linda alerted the police.
Many of his victims were in a vulnerable place in their lives—recently divorced, fresh out of an abusive relationship, or recovering from a serious accident—and he presented himself as a hero and caretaker, the man who would step in and save the day. Among all the duds—the desperate and depressed and not-quite-divorced—a year-old man named Richie Peterson stood out. Chris sent Missi a picture of Richie in a hospital bed, looking a little banged up but grinning gamely for the camera.
That would be crazy. The false life that Derek—it was still hard not to slip and call him Rich—had constructed for himself was thorough: He had a University of Minnesota address and an ID card that allowed him to swipe into university buildings. When she reported him to the police, she was told that legal action would likely be a waste of her time and money.
He would FaceTime the women from UM classrooms between classes.