Niles man warns others about potential cons

Published 10:07 am Tuesday, July 15, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Gerald F. Marshall was caught off guard when what appears to be a con-woman targeting church-goers approached him at his home in Niles on July 4.
Marshall, hoping to spare others, wrote to the Niles Daily Star about the incident.
The woman, Marshall said, claimed she needed the money to buy gasoline to drive to Kalamazoo where her mother was hospitalized as a result of an accident, not expected to live.
The woman, who at the time was driving a white car, approached Marshall thinking that he was the pastor of a local church.
Marshall told the woman, who appeared to be in her 30s, that he wasn't the person she was looking for, but he said the pastor whom she was seeking lived nearby.
With emotions of sympathy already running high, however, Marshall said he went into his garage where he had a one gallon tank of gasoline.
Having picked up the tank of gasoline, Marshall said he went to his wife who gave him a five dollar bill.
Marshall said he then asked the woman to write her name and a phone number on a piece of paper.
About to put the gasoline in the woman's car and give her the five dollar bill, the pastor whom the woman was seeking happened to drive by, Marshall said.
After making contact with the pastor, Marshall said his wife advised him that the matter would now be better handled by the pastor, who was accompanied by his wife.
Marshall said the pastor's wife then called the various hospitals in Kalamazoo in an effort to help the woman find out which hospital her mother had been taken to -- all to no avail.
While seeking more specific information from the woman, the pastor soon found out the woman's story didn't hold water, Marshall said.
After the con was exposed, Marshall said the pastor told him that in his 13 years of ministry, no approaches similar to this one have proven genuine.
Feeling annoyed with himself for initially falling for the scam, Marshall said he will be much more skeptical to similar approaches in the future.
Marshall, a physicist who said he is a cynic in the cold light of day, said he will take down much more information the next time he is approached.
That includes taking down the numbers on license plates, specific information about the person, and about the con.
Having been able to expose the July 4-con attempt with assistance from the pastor, Marshall said another parishioner succumbed to the scam the following day.