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2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,356 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]
Buckweed Fire


Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jun 28, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelThe earliest reference I could find to scam artists was in the 18th Century. These charlatans were counterfeiters, con men and general tricksters.

Of course we all remember the traveling snake oil salesmen. Later, people like Victor Lustig from the Czech Republic (then known as Bohemia) managed actually to convince someone they were buying the Eiffel Tower.

Victor lived from 1890 to 1947. He traveled from country to country, but his best known scam was the sale of the Eiffel Tower. He was handsome and glib, and people loved him.

Not only did he love to travel, but he also incorporated travel into his scam business, spending lots of time on luxury liners that sailed between Paris and New York.

Victor Lustig

Victor Lustig

One of his favorite schemes was a money printing box. He would sell this machine to unsuspecting customers who thought the box would produce crisp, new $100 bills. They would pay him upwards of $30,000 for the machine. It took the machine six hours to produce a bill. Nevertheless, customers lined up to purchase one. In 18 hours, it had produced $300, and the clients were delighted – only to find that the next bill was blank paper, as was every bill after that. The $100 bills were actually government-printed bills. So, the investor who paid $30,000 ended up with $300 and no clue as to the whereabouts of Mr. Lustig.

Another early 19th-century con man sold New York monuments to tourists, including the Brooklyn Bridge. Others were counterfeiters, card cheaters, men who proposed matrimony to maidens with money, horse thieves, cattle rustlers, kidnappers and those who sold bottles of goop, guaranteed to cure whatever ailed you.

scam-artistThese con men have given us much to laugh about in our time, but I’ve just become aware that there is at least one con artist in Santa Clarita. First, I must give you a little bit of background.

I have been working with a small group of dedicated local people to get the ruins of the St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon memorialized by Congress. The dam, which broke in 1928 and killed people from Santa Clarita all the way down to Santa Paula, has never been nationally recognized as the major tragedy it was. It is the second largest disaster in California and one of the worst civil engineering disasters in the entire United States.

It is high time we recognize this disaster in our very own backyard. The only thing we’ve asked of people are letters of support for our efforts, which have been delivered to our congressman, Steve Knight.

Bugs Bunny Buys the Brooklyn Bridge

Bugs Bunny Buys the Brooklyn Bridge

This is where the charlatan enters, stage right. Apparently, this man has heard of our efforts. I am glad word is getting out. However, he is taking advantage of our efforts by going door to door, asking for donations for the memorial/monument.

I have been given a name, but it is probably a bogus name, so I am not repeating it. If he comes to your door, make sure you DO NOT give him any money. If you can, stall him and call the local sheriff station (661-255-1121).

Maybe in the next century, people will be laughing at this character. His mug shot will certainly be a great addition to the museum we hope is built on the site one day.

So, we find that even in Awesometown, cheaters, hackers and snake oil salesmen “work” among us.

I hope you have not given this guy any money. If you have, call the sheriffs and give them a description. If he comes to your house, try to get his photo, or a photo of his license plate, without putting yourself in harm’s way. Nothing is worth that.

But whatever you do, remember to memorize what his face looks like, and call the cops. Don’t reward him with any money, and don’t let him in your house. If you’ve seen him, email me, too. Stay safe and hold onto your money.

 

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Judy Reinsma says:

    Thanks, Dianne for being on top of this. Of course, we all want to donate to worthy causes, but no one wants to line the pockets of a scam artist. I hope the SOB gets caught.

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