Scammers are no joke. Bernie’s Madoff’s gazillion dollar, Ponzi-style rip off of thousands of people was far from funny. The Nigerian prince who has selected you to bequeath his vast fortune scam isn’t humorous either (ok, a little). But the smaller scale scams pulled off by anonymous New Yorkers are in a class by themselves.
After a few years absence, subway scammers seem to be making a comeback, and yesterday was a good example. On the downtown C train at about 8p.m., a one-legged guy on crutches painfully dragged himself through the cars panhandling, with a good number of passengers stuffing bills or coins into his cup. I got off at West 4th Street, had a leisurely dinner and got back on the subway close to midnight.
Who should I see but my disabled friend striding briskly through the cars on two legs, carrying his crutches under his arm! Did he purchase a prosthetic device or visit Lourdes in the past four hours? I started to ask, then thought better of it.
Just a few stops later, an oldie but goodie panscammer gave an encore performance of an act I’d seen years before on the subways. Toting a broken, twisted trumpet, the man played a few ear-splitting notes, as the riders recoiled in horror. Feigning innocence, he appeared hurt at our reactions to his musicianship. “Ok then, if you give me some change, I’ll stop,” he suggested. Many riders quickly took him up on his offer.
But the mother of all local scams was revealed this week. Brooklyn’s own Thomas Parkin dutifully went down to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew his elderly mom’s license and even did the paperwork to help his mother collect her Social Security checks. What a guy! The only snag was, Parkin’s mom died a decade ago.
During a 2009 visit to renew his mother’s license, Tommy even wore mom’s favorite blond wig, red nail polish, scarf and red dress, along with his own five o’clock shadow. He sailed through the line, interview and photo and successfully renewed the license. What might this say about our DMV, you might ask? Uhm…don’t.
After collecting her Social Security checks along with almost $40,000 in social services rent supplements for two more years, someone at the agency finally noticed that his mom was deceased. Hey, better late than never.
In a courthouse interview, Parkin described himself as “a big fan of Norman Bates” in the movie Psycho. You think?
Despite all this, Parkin continued to insist he is innocent at his trial, and that this is all a big misunderstanding.
And no, he wasn’t wearing the blond wig or red dress when he said it.