November 4, 2011 in City

Small-time con artist makes a big impression

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Marc Resseman opened his door on Halloween, but he didn’t find trick-or-treaters.

He found an old Rogers High School acquaintance.

“I recognized him when I opened the door, and I said, ‘Hey, Brandon,’ ” Resseman, 26, said. “He said, ‘Hey. We went to high school together, right?’ ”

Then, without missing a beat, Brandon went into a spiel that must have been told thousands of times over the past months in Spokane: He was out of gas, in an emergency and needed help. I wrote about Brandon earlier this week – about how I’d found myself persuaded by his tale, and “lent” him $20 I never saw again – and the responses from readers this week floored me.

More than 60 people called or emailed to say that they, too, had been hit up for money by Brandon. They called from all over Spokane, and related stories from all different times in the past several months. They told me he’d hit them up in homes, in businesses – even at a day care. They told me he’d given them a name – in some cases, it appears to have been his real name – and a phone number that seems to have been, in some cases, his real number.

An Air Force retiree gave to Brandon. So did a volunteer Spokane Police Department chaplain. A dry cleaner. A barbershop owner and a restaurateur. Caller after caller rang me up Wednesday and Thursday – I could barely get off the phone – to tell me about Brandon.

At first, I was annoyed at Brandon and what he’d done. A good number of those I heard from did not have money to spare. But as the calls and emails mounted, I started to become almost … impressed.

Brandon has to be the hardest-working short-con artist in Spokane. He’s knocked on more doors than 10 Mormon missionaries. He’s canvassed the town so thoroughly that a few people told me he’d tried to con them twice without even realizing it. Two people say they were his former classmates – and that he gave them his out-of-gas spiel anyway.

“He hit me up twice – and didn’t even recognize me the second time,” said a woman who lives at a north Spokane apartment complex. “In a way, I find it amusing that we’re all such saps. The guy’s so convincing!”

The legality of Brandon’s little con is not precise. It’s probably theft, since he intends to deprive people of their money, but he does take no for an answer, and those of us who’ve given to him are usually too embarrassed to report it. Plus, the stakes are low, and it’s hard to argue that Brandon – even given his citywide reach – rises to a priority level these days. I couldn’t find out for sure Thursday if the police department had any reports on Brandon, but most people I spoke to said they hadn’t reported it.

I don’t think what he did was OK, but I find myself more outraged about some of the large-scale, respectable cons we’ve seen in recent years. Think Triple-A, subprime securities. It’s sometimes a lot easier to identify and villainize the pathetic small-timer, while the big-time crooks hire lobbyists and send Christmas gifts to senators.

Almost all of the people who contacted me said they’d given Brandon money. Resseman said he might have “helped” Brandon, but he didn’t have any cash. He said he knew some of Brandon’s story was false, but he was well-dressed, in a sweater, nice jeans, and dress shoes – “like he just came from some kind of nice dinner with a girl.”

Resseman said Brandon hit up a few of his neighbors – and one suspects him of swiping some money from a table.

A strange element of these cons is that Brandon seems to have given some people his phone number. A couple people told me they’d actually reached him on the phone – I tried the number without success. About six months ago, Brandon got $10 at both the Boulevard Barbers and Sweetie Pie café on Northwest Boulevard. He left them a phone number.

Julie Becker, co-owner of Sweetie Pie, began calling the number after Brandon failed to return. She called and called, leaving messages demanding her money back. Eventually, Brandon answered, and Becker harangued him into bringing back her money. He actually repaid her and Megan Malloy, co-owner of the barbershop.

“He had a handful of money, and he just handed it over – 10 to me, 10 to her,” Becker said.

A few months later, as Malloy was working in the yard near Audubon Park, Brandon stopped and gave her his story once again.

“Same guy!” Malloy said. “I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ ”

She didn’t give him anything. But like a lot of us, she’s baffled by his success at what should be such an obvious scam.

“This guy has some kind of, like, charm about him,” she said.

Tony De Stefano gave Brandon money about three weeks ago. On Monday, he was at his brother-in-law’s when there was a knock on the door.

“I heard, ‘Can you help me? My girlfriend had a fender-bender at Fernan Lake … ” De Stefano said.

“I said, ‘You son of a bitch, you owe me money,’ ” De Stefano said. “He said, ‘Didn’t my girlfriend pay you back?’ ”

De Stefano chased him off while Brandon – even in retreat, even as he was busted – promised he’d be right back with his money.

“The kid was really smooth,” De Stefano said. “He could be on Wall Street.”

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@ spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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