Showing posts with label con artist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label con artist. Show all posts

02 July 2015

What We Do for Love...

by Eve Fisher

Here are a few tips regarding those who wish to remain among the unincarcerated:

(1) Don't pick up work-release prisoners and give them a ride anywhere but directly to the pen.
(2) Don't pick up work-release prisoners and take them over to your house for a cup of coffee, much less a six-pack of beer.
(3) Don't pick up work-release prisoners and take them over to your house for sex.
(4) Don't have sex with inmates, even if it's in your car, and you're sure there are no cameras around.
(5) Don't take anything from an inmate, even if it's just a little picture that they want to give you because you're so nice.
(6) Don't give anything to an inmate, even if it's just a picture of you so that they'll always have a memento.
(7) Don't agree to bring anything in to an inmate, even if it will make them so happy and you're their only friend.
(8) Don't agree to give/buy/sell anything to/from an inmate's relative, friend, significant other, etc., even if their grandmother is dying.
(9) Don't have sex with an inmate's relative, friend, significant other, etc., even if they really, really, really find you attractive and always have.
(10) Don't have sex with an inmate, even if the supply closet/classroom/staff bathroom is open and unoccupied and no one's in the pod watching and/or another inmate will keep an eye out for anyone coming.
(11) Don't have sex with an inmate.

Sadly, it happens all the time.  Every year at volunteer/guard training, we hear the stories:  this guard picked up a prisoner on their way home from work-release, took them for a ride, took them home, took them here, took them there...  Had a little coffee/soda/beer/drugs/sex with them.  That guard brought in cell phones/chew/drugs for a prisoner, who paid them with sex and/or cold hard cash. Another person had an affair with a prisoner, and when another prisoner found out about it, the person got blackmailed into having sex with that prisoner, too.  And when yet another inmate found out about that, suddenly the person had to start smuggling contraband...  And then there was the case of a person who got caught having sex with a prisoner, and the prisoner turned around and sued the person for sexual harassment and rape under PREA.  And won.

In each case, beginning the long march to losing job, family, and freedom.

Prison inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat are seen in enhanced pictures released by the New York State police

I'm sure you've all been following the story of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, who escaped from the Clinton Correctional facility in upstate New York with the help of two prison employees, Officer Gene Palmer (a prison guard) and Joyce Mitchell (who supervised inmates working in the prison's tailor shop).  I know I have.  (Just as I was finishing this up, Mr. Matt was killed, and Mr. Sweat was wounded and  back in custody.)  Now, I wasn't surprised at all that the prisoners tried to escape, and not that surprised that they succeeded - it happens.  After all, they have all the time in their sentence to sit and think up more or less inventive ways of getting out.  And every once in a while, they come up with a doozy.  One that actually works.  I'm just glad that this time no one was killed in the escape.

But what did surprise me, what always surprises me, is that some employees helped them.  To put it in the simplest English, "WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?"
Danged if I know.

Gene Palmer: 5 Things to Know About Second Prison Worker Arrested in Escape Plot
Gene Palmer, in custody, looking shell-shocked

I do know that many inmates are really good at manipulating people.  If it wasn't their way of making a living out on outside, it sure is now.  Here's a great article which outlines a basic prison con:

First, they groom a person. This usually takes the form of either flattery or comfort.  Inmates pay very close attention to staff and volunteers, what they say, how they look, how they act.  (And, no, they literally don't have anything better to do.)  And so they might pay that staff member a compliment, or talk about what a difference the volunteer has made, or how good they are at something.  Given enough time (and believe me, the prisoners  have plenty of time), warm fuzzies abound...

Secondly, they talk, talk, talk, and get the staff/volunteer to talk, talk, talk.  Friendship blossoms. Confidences are made.  Perhaps about something that is slightly... illicit.  That's called instant blackmail.  And suddenly the staff member agrees to look the other way when the rules are bent a little.  And then that little indiscretion is used to hook the person into overlooking rules being really bent, broken, and thrown out in the trash.  And then the prisoners own the staff/volunteer, and anything is possible.  As we've seen.

Personally, I almost feel sorry for Joyce Mitchell (51), who was obviously led to believe that David Sweat (35) was in love with her.  I'll have to hand it to him, he took his time in landing her.  And, even though she still denies having sex with the man (while other inmates are heavily ratting them out and saying yes, they did, over and over again), I kind of hope she got something out of it besides the sickening knowledge that she was used, used, used, because she's going to prison herself, and it would be awful to trade away your entire life for absolutely nothing.

Joyce Mitchell is accused of helping two killers escape an upstate New York prison David Sweat remains at large

But I do not understand, at all, Officer Palmer trading his career and his freedom away for paintings. (At least the cell phone smugglers got money.)  I heard that he's claimed he was getting intelligence on illegal behavior in prison - but everything he did was (1) illegal according to the rules and (2) completely backfired because he ended up giving them at least some of the tools they needed to escape.  He appears to be one of those workers who came to sympathize more with the prisoners than with the institution.  Not that uncommon.  Prison is not a pleasant place to be in, no matter which side of the bars you're on.  But at some point, you've got to be aware of what you're trading when you become the duck.  You're trading your career, perhaps your family and friends, and all of your freedom in order to be a sucker.  A big fat waddling duck.

Prison Gangs
It's really simple:  don't violate the rules and don't trust the prisoners.  Be courteous, professional, even friendly (as in business friendly).  Do your job.  Be present.  Listen.  Care.  But don't trust them with your stuff, your mind, your body, your family, your freedom.  The con games never stop, and you are the obvious target, because you can get them something they want, something they need, and who knows?  You might even get them out of prison.  And put yourself IN.

04 April 2012

Five Red Herrings

1.  Did anyone else notice something odd about the March/April issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine?  There were fifteen stories and I am going to summarize the plots of eight of them.  No major spoilers here....

    * A tourist faces danger in the Caribbean.
    * A city hunter disappears in the north woods
    * A wealthy woman visiting 18th century Bath meets a charming rogue
    * A camper faces danger in a mountain park.
    * City kids on a fishing trip here a rumor about a possible serial killer
    * A girl's odd boyfriend wants to take her on a boating trip
    * Suspicious circumstances abound at a family resort
    * An ancient Roman citizen encounters murder in Asia

The theme of the issue seems to be: Stay home.  It's freaking dangerous out there.

Maybe so.

2.  My nephew Chris Messineo is the director of the New Jersey Film School.  Undone is the latest crime short-short put together by him and his students.  The young lady is his daughter Joanna.  I can't get the video to embed here but you can find it here.

3.  Amazing article in the New York Times.    Nothing in it quite rises to the level of crime, unless you want to use words like negligence, I suppose, but boy, you could sure write half a dozen crime stories based on it.

Briefly, the University of California - Berkeley misplaced a piece of art that was in their care.  Worse, it arguably belonged to the federal government.

So what was this little doodad they lost track of?  Only a  23-foot long sculpture, worth over a million bucks.  How do you lose that, much less sell it as surplus - for a hundred and fifty bucks, plus tax?  (I'm glad they got the tax, to keep it all  legit).  Too bad they couldn't find an art expert to assess the piece for them - like, I don't know, maybe at the University of California- Berkeley?

Happy ending: it wound up in a library.

4.  On the Short Mystery Fiction List recently they were discussing framing versus flashbacks as ways of telling a story and I remembered that I had written about that on Criminal Brief.    What I did not recall was that the ornery story I complained about in that piece - because I was having trouble with figuring out a way to tell the opening scenes - was "Shanks Commences," currently appearing in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  So I guess I solved that problem.

5.   Ever hear of James Payn?  He was a Victorian novelist and I believe his books have been forgotten, but he has one eternal claim to fame.  True story: In 1886, as editor of Cornhill Magazine, he rejected A Study in Scarlet.  Yup, the first Sherlock Holmes novel wasn't good enough for his mag.  You have to wonder what he published in that issue instead, don't you?

In his honor, every time I get a rejection I say "What a Payn!"

Written apologies available on request.

13 February 2012

Flim-Flam or Con Artist

Jan Grapeby Jan Grape

For some strange reason I seem to like con artists. Not the ones who set up older people and cheat them out of money.  I mean the guys like Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting. The con to set up bad guys who've wronged people and need to be taken.

The brilliance of a good con is intriguing.  I watched an old Law and Order TV show the other day. It was probably was filmed in the early 2000s. The con was amazing, however, the con artist were not nice people and the people they were cheating were nice people.  And unsuspecting. The story involved two people who had a lot of money.  They were both married, but not to each other.  They were both married to flim-flam artists.  The rich lady had been raped and almost killed.  In fact, she was paralyzed on one side.  Her husband was not suspected at the time and he was very supportive and solitious of her. He was the con man.

As the detectives investigated they discovered another lady living nearby who also had been attacked. Her husband was out of town and he was not a suspect.  She was the con artist.  The two cons set up a lock-smith guy to take the fall. The locksmith had installed new locks on the doors of each residence. When all that failed and the investigation led to the discovery that the con man and woman had been convicted of fraud on Canada and they had different names, the police were charging that the marriages of the two con artist to the rich man and woman were invalid because the cons used fake names.  The DA wanted the rich man and woman to testify against the con artist.  The cons lawyer said they couldn't testify against their spouses. The cons lawyer then gave the DA copies of the both con artists having legally changed their names to the phony ones they were using prior to all this.

The con artist each confessed to their spouse all their previous misdeeds and confessed also to their current misdeeds and the rich man and the rich woman each forgave the con person they were married to and that settled it. Both rich people were in love with their spouses and couldn't believe any of this was just to obtain their money.

Now I won't tell you how the DA and the investigators managed to right this horrible wrong because that would be a spoiler and you might have a chance to see the old episode and you don't want the answer revealed, do you?  (Ok, if you're dying to know, you can e-mail me at .)

My first thought was whoever wrote this screen play was really an excellent writer.  I don't know who it was because like most of us I don't pay a lot of attention to who the writer is.  Well, maybe I pay more attention than most people because I am a writer and I do have some interest. But I don't remember who the author was and if it had been someone I had heard of or knew about, I might remember.

My next thought was the fact that the story was very entertaining and intriguing.  There were so many twists and turns that everytime the DA thought he had the con artist "dead to rights," they had an answer. Their lawyer was able to produce conflicting evidence and keep his clients out of jail.

As mystery writers we can learn a lot from such programs.  Unfortunately, so many TV shows and movie plots are so full of plot holes that you almost run from the room screaming.  All of us, writers and readers alike really enjoy a good plot.  We like to try to figure out the "mystery," to solve the case along with the detective. I think we can all agree that if we can paint our protagonist into a corner which seems to have no way out, then we have a good story going. The reader had to keep pealing back the layers until they get to the end.

I'll admit that I'm not always the best at plotting.  I think my strongest point is characters.  I enjoy developing good, well-rounded believable characters and hope that my readers like them enough to keep reading even if they figure out "whodunit" by mid-book.  I wish I could plot better and I'm hoping that I can learn more as I continue this journey into the writing game.

But I'll just have to confess that a good flim-flam artist story is one of my favorite reads and I also admit that a good con man is fascinating.  Or maybe it's just Redford and Newman that intrigues me.