News

Con man Simon Gann loose in Bay Area, police say

Police on trail after parole violation

Good Samaritans beware: A traveling con man has returned to the Bay Area, and may be only too eager to help relieve you of your money and peace of mind, according to police.

Simon Gann, one of the notorious Gann twins, returned to the attention of Menlo Park police officer Felicia Byars after his parole date arrived. "Knowing what I know about him, I double-checked," she said.

Gann violated parole by departing for areas unknown, according to police, or at least unknown until people who had the misfortune of encountering the man under one of his well-worn aliases turned to Google and unearthed a trove of newspaper stories about his past activities.

He'd been sighted in Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Las Vegas, according to Byars, who started getting telephone calls. He was allegedly up to "the exact same thing."

"The exact same thing," for Gann usually involves posing as a math savant and business tycoon who just needs a helping hand to recover from losing his passport and wallet.

In December 2010 he admitted sweet-talking a Menlo Park woman into a relationship and out of approximately $1,900 by pretending to be a millionaire MIT graduate named "Saleem Dutante" who could count cards "like Rain Man," and pleaded no contest to multiple felony charges in San Mateo County Superior Court. He was sentenced to 16 months in state prison.

From behind bars, the con man wrote two letters to the Menlo Park victim threatening to broadcast her sexual history unless she refused to take the stand. He also offered money, the district attorney's office said.

Unimpressed, the victim reported the letters to police, which earned Gann additional charges of witness tampering on top of grand theft.

Authorities had tripled his initial bail to $100,000 after discovering Gann's multiple convictions for fraud in Canada in 2009.

A penchant for ripping people off appears to run in the family. His identical twin brother, Jordan, is serving five years in Florida prison for conning a woman out of thousands of dollars by posing as an Ivy League oncologist and real estate mogul in 2008.

"They're professional con artists," Byars said. "They could convince you to give up your grandmother if they wanted to."

While it's nice to help someone out, she urged everyone to first make sure that the person asking for assistance really needs the help.

Anyone with information about Gann's activities can call the Menlo Park police department at 650-330-6300 or email FFByars@menlopark.org.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by 3 strikes and you're out
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

The 3 strikes law was intended for unrepentant criminals like this. Lock him up and throw away the key.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Wipple
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

This guy is throwing his life away. He should get involved in politics so he can con people legally.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Don't allow a con man - bully - to prey on your natural courtesy or helpfulness! I worry that some are raised to "always be polite" or "always be meek" (some of us women raised by highly conservative parents)- do what you're told, etc.
While common sense tells us to be skeptical at times, con men or women apparently have worked hard to hone their criminal skills and they use these in criminal and abusive fashions.
You do NOT have to give money or help ANY criminal and cause yourself any harm.
If it doesn't feel right - instinctually - get away.
Better yet, avoid getting involved/in discussions with questionable people with wild heatstring-pulling stories. There are legit public resources to help people genuinely down on their luck, etc.
Don't care if the person yells at you or whatever.
Reminds me a bit of "The Gift of Fear," a valuable book by Gavin de Becker (spelling?) concerning saving oneself (especially women) when in danger by LISTENING to your instincts/gut that usually give you signals to get away NOW, and NOT permitting criminals to use your natural politeness so that YOU are harmed/conned/injured/robbed/killed. This is serious stuff.


2 people like this
Posted by hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Unfortunately, these kinds of people aren't usually obvious to start, they sweet talk people. It's very difficult to know the difference between them and someone legitimate. The difference is time: con men don't have that kind of long-term patience. Don't be afraid to help people you know well, but if someone has just swept you off your feet, be wary...


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