As far as cons go, it really didn't make a whole lot of sense. I haven't practiced law seriously in some time but as a criminal lawyer buddy of mine once said of me, I have a really good bullshit detector. And it started going off pretty quick in the discussion in front of my house early last week. Here's what happened.
I was leaving my house Tuesday afternoon to run some errands. As I was walking to my car, I noticed an older lady walking on the sidewalk in the direction of my house out of the corner of my eye.
"Sir," she said. "Excuse me, Sir."
Great, I thought. Another version of the "I need 5 bucks to get gas to go to Conway" scam. As I refuse to be panhandled, I started back up the steps to my house.
Then she called me by name. I stopped. She called me by my name.
She was using a cane and she drug a leg a bit. As she got closer to me I noticed the surgical scar on her chest. She was perspiring. I guessed that she was a cardiac patient.
"I recognized you from your picture," she said. "I have been walking up and down this street trying to find your house."
"I beg your pardon?" I said.
She told me that she came from a military family and that her husband was buried at Arlington. She told me that she really liked a piece that I had written for Soiree Magazine here in Little Rock about a picture I took of a young man before he was deployed to Afghanistan. She said she wanted to shake my hand.
I still wasn't much believing this, but as she posed no physical danger to me, seeing as how I can take out most elderly female cardiac cases,I stepped off the porch and shook her hand. Then she got down to business. Seems she wanted me to be her lawyer. She said she knew she could trust me.
I told her that I wasn't really practicing law right now and that in any event I didn't carry malpractice. She wilted and leaned on her cane.
"Then I guess there's no hope," she said.
"What's going on with you?" I asked.
" I got a call yesterday," they're selling my house tomorrow.
Red flag time.
"And this phone call is the first you've heard about this?"
"Yessir. I didn't know nothing about this. I was hoping you could file for an Injunction."
Well, no I wouldn't even if were practicing law. Injunctive relief is hard to get seeing as how you have to prove irreparable harm. And losing a house is not irreparable harm because you can always theoretically get another house. But I gave her the names of a couple of bankruptcy lawyers and told her to give them a call pronto. And I offered to give her a ride back to her car which was parked over on Jackson St about 4 blocks away.
En route she told me how much she enjoyed listening to me on "Tales of the South.' She especially liked a story I told in which I impersonated my father's Indiana accent.
" I'm from Iowa," she said. "I really liked that one."
She also told me that her financial advisor had stole all her money. Same thing happened with the investments guy at a local bank leaving her destitute. And she didn't know that the papers she signed to get money from an investment account was a real estate mortgage.
"Well, evidently you signed one somewhere along the way," I said.
Before I let her out of the car I wrote down the names of the bankruptcy lawyers I had recommended. I also wrote down that she should go to the prosecutors and to the Arkansas Securities Commission. Just out of curiosity I asked her where the house in question was located. She gave me the address. It was out in a high dollar neighborhood.
Hmmm. More red flags.
I wished her luck. But I also told her that stories like this were easily checked out. She told me she would be glad if I would check her out. Then again what was she going to say?
As soon as she drove off in her SUV, I went home and got on the computer. To check her out. No foreclosures on the Pulaski County docket for her name but there were lots of lawsuits involving people with the same name. But it is a very common name. And the cases were old enough that none of the cases were imaged so I couldn't tell. However, there was more than Plaintiff involved in motor vehicle accidents with the same name. And there was one lawsuit against a local lender.
I went to the real estate records. There seemed to be a lot of activity on a property that was allegedly owned free and clear. But for some reason I couldn't open any documents. So I went to the Assessor's website.
Son of a bitch.
She wasn't lying about owning a house at that address. A 500k one at that. The picture of the house on the page even showed her SUV parked in the driveway.
My curiosity was in the red zone. I went to the Pulaski County Courthouse early on the day of the sale. There on the wall where they post the Legal Notices was the Notice of Sale on her house.
I'll be damned.
I called a lawyer friend and told her my story.
"That's pretty effed up," she said. "That's pretty effed up even for you."
I ignored the compliment and asked her to get on the real estate records online and tell me what she saw.
" Your friend lied," she said. "That property has been in foreclosure 4 times. And this person came to your house? I would be a little scared."
My guess is that she also lied about her dire state of poverty, seeing as how she evidently was able to hold the wolves at bay 3 other times. I kept an eye on the bankruptcy records online as well all week. She never filed. Never has filed ever. Which probably means she has had the wherewithal to pull these other foreclosures out of the fire and I'm guessing the same thing happened last week although she was really pushing it this time waiting until the last minute as she obviously did.
I'm also guessing the lawsuit against the bank by the person with the same name as hers was a suit asking for an Injunction against a foreclosure. I don't know that but I'm guessing I'm right. And an unduly suspicious person might make much of all the car wreck cases brought by a person with the same name. Then again, it's a common sounding name. There are probably 15 of them out there.
Like I said, as far as cons go it didn't make much sense. I guess she thought I would take pity on her and go helling off into Court seeking relief I well knew she wasn't entitled to on the basis of her word alone. Or because she is allegedly a fan of mine as preposterous as that sounded even to me at the time. Perhaps she thought she could appeal to my vanity which is generally a safe play except I have a pretty good hubris defense shield that works in tandem with the bullshit detector. I mean, there are easier ways to find a lawyer other then by searching house-to-house for a face in a magazine. Hell, there are easier ways to find me if someone really wanted to do it.
Like I said, red flags. In abundance.
But to what passes for her credit, her story was at least partially true although how she got into this fix would be interesting to know. And she never asked for money which surprised me to no end.
I doubt that I will ever see her again. The con, whatever it was, didn't work and she's smart enough to know that I would put 2 and 2 together. Because I told her that I would.
And while I'm not scared or apprehensive, I really don't like the fact that somebody like her knows that much about me.
Like where I live.
She liked my fake Indiana accent. That's probably true but only in that she thought it might be useful for her. I'm guessing she saw compassion in my writing and thought she could work it. That's the way con artists think.
For some folks everything is showbiz. It's how they relate to the world.
But really, I could do without her knowing where I live. I could do without that.