Escaping The Elaborate Scam

Sitting in a restaurant with oak tables and ferns all around him reminded Mickey Herskovitz of a bar he used to frequent in the eighties called ‘’Brandy’s’’ at the Yonge Eglinton Center in mid-town Toronto. He was at ‘’Augostino’s’’ for a date with a woman named Ashley who he had met via a dating app called ‘’Uniting Single Jews with Similar Views.’’

Ashley was running on Jewish time, she was a half hour late. Mickey looked at his ginger ale and wondered how much longer he should wait. Getting ghosted was a terrible feeling. He made a decision that as soon as he got back to his place, he would delete his profile from the dating app.

Mickey had been married for fifteen years. His wife was a wonderful person but they had unfortunately grown apart. They both tried but the passion was gone between them, and Franny had wanted to meet someone else to rekindle her ‘’wonderlust.’’ Mickey loved her and he loved his two kids, but if Franny wanted out to live a different life, it would have been wrong to hold her back. He offered to go with to a Marriage Councilor but Franny had her mind made up. She was going to travel to Australia and find a guy down under. That left Mickey and the two kids, Ellie and Jeb. The divorce was finalized and Franny was true to her word. She jumped on a plane, waved goodbye to her family and the life she knew in Canada and headed off for a new adventure.

Mickey wasn’t going to date, but his kids insisted and it was his daughter, Ellie who signed him up for Jews and their views, or whatever the hell it was. He had been on the site for a day when he got a message from Ashley and they started communicating. She seemed nice, her picture looked good, so Mickey thought nothing ventured, nothing gained, and they agreed to meet for dinner and drinks. She had suggested Augostino’s as the food was solidly good.

After checking his watch one last time, Mickey stood up and asked the bartender for the bill. She was a perky young woman. ‘’Did you get stood up?’’ Mickey nodded. ‘’Then the ginger ale is on the house. Sorry about that. Sometimes people can be so inconsiderate and rude. Have a better rest of the night.’’

After thanking the bartender, Mickey stood up and was heading out the door when he ran into a woman who was entering who looked like Ashley. ‘’Uh are you Mickey?’’ Mickey nodded, he wasn’t really interested in meeting with her. ‘’I am so sorry, I didn’t have your number or I would have called. My car had a flat tire and I wanted to change it, but I didn’t want to be late, so I called an Uber and for some reason I wasn’t connecting. It was all a big mess. I feel terrible. Please excuse me. I’m a very punctual person. Can we go back and sit down. I hate giving this first impression. Look even my glasses are fogging up.’’ Mickey thought she seemed charming in a real kind of way. ‘’I’m also starving, I hope you haven’t eaten anything.’’

Mickey walked with her over to a table and they sat down. ‘’So Mickey, give me a couple of minutes to catch my breath and tell me about yourself.’’ It was a question Mickey dreaded. What could he say, he loved his kids, he had loved his wife, and he was single for the first time in fifteen years. He wasn’t crazy about the idea of dating, but he did like the idea of meeting someone special. ‘’I work as an assistant planner for the City of Toronto. I investigate different scenarios such as traffic flow when new building plans are presented before we make final decisions. I’ve been doing it for about seventeen years. It is interesting work or at least I think it is, I enjoy what I do.’’

Ashley asked Mickey if he wanted wine and when the waitress came over she asked for a glass of Chardonnay. ‘’I love what I do, I work with an investment company. There are a number of people who’ve made a lot of money thanks to us. One guy invested ten thousand and just pulled out a hundred thousand. I bet I could do that for you if you wanted.’’

The red flags started waving in Mickey’s mind. ‘’The Pasta Primavera looks great.’’ Ashley took off her glasses and looked at the menu. ‘’The last time I was here, I had the veal parmesan and it was to die for.’’

The waitress came over with the wine and took the orders and left. The bartender who had given Mickey the ginger ale was watching him intently. He thought maybe he should go over and pay for the drink, but he thought he’d wait till the end of the date.

‘’So, it said on your profile you were divorced. I hate to talk about ex’s when I’m out, but I can tell you, I was married to a guy who changed as soon as we got married. He was a slob, I was always picking up after him. I think he was sorry he ever left his parent’s house. We were married for two years when we decided to divorce.’’

The waitress brought over buns and Mickey waited till Ashley took one and then he followed. He buttered it and asked himself why wasn’t he enjoying the date, Ashley seemed nice enough. He lifted his wine glass and looked at her ‘’Here’s to you Ashley and no more flat tires.’’ Ashley smiled ‘’Thank You Mickey, I am so glad to have come here and I’m so pleased we’ve met. Anyways, I was telling you about Freddie the guy who made the hundred thousand. He gave me a check for ten thousand, I gave it to my company and in three months he had ten times his money, can you believe it? If you want I can call Freddie and he can verify everything. Don’t you wish you could make ten times your money on everything you did?’’

Mickey started thinking about a gorgeous woman who had once tried to sell him time shares and he thought she looked very much like Ashley. The difference was she offered him luggage to go with to hear a presentation. He thought back on it, and remembered the guy who did the Time Share pitch was named Joel. ‘’So, what’s the name of the Investment company?’’ Ashley looked at him in the most serious way. ‘’It’s called Gropp Tilman and it is a very small boutique place. We try to keep a low profile so our clients all benefit. Who needs big overhead right?’’

The Pasta was excellent but every time Mickey looked up he could see the Bartender staring at him and it gave him an uncomfortable feeling.

‘’You know Mickey, if you gave me a check for five thousand tonight and five thousand for the start of the week , I could give you a receipt and in three months you’ll get back a lot of money, I guarantee it.’’

The pasta was starting to get scratchy in Mickey’s throat, nothing was going down easy, including Ashley’s investment story. ‘’Isn’t the food delicious Mickey? I love it here, it’s quiet and kind of private. On the weekends they do a big business. Anyways, my friend Joel lives around the corner. He’s the one who does the investing. Would it be really rude if I called him to come over for a minute. I feel like we know each other, and it would be great to introduce you to him. He’s a wonderful person.’’ Before Mickey could object Ashley was on the phone. ‘’Hi Joel, it’s Ashley. I’m at Augostino’s on Broadway. Yeah, I am here with a great guy named Mickey. We are actually on a date, but I told him about how Freddie made a hundred thousand in three months, and I thought it would be great to introduce you to him. Okay, see you soon.’’

Ashley hung up the phone and Mickey didn’t have words. It didn’t feel like a date it felt like an ambush. ‘’Do you always invite Joel to join you when you’re on a date?’’ Ashley laughed Mickey’s comments off. ‘’Joel and I go way back. He’s a very good and trusted friend. I bet you become friends with him, he’s just that kind of guy. He lives pretty close to here, so I thought it would be great to introduce you.’’

Mickey was stirring the pasta primavera around the bowl. ‘’So, Ashley what shul do you go to?’’ Ashley looked at him blankly ‘’Shul, what’s Shul?’’ Mickey looked at how little pasta was left in his bowl. He hadn’t really loved it ‘’Synagogue, do you go to a Synagogue?’’ Ashley shook her head. ‘’I consider myself a ‘’Globalist’’. I follow many religious beliefs but mostly I’m into Festivus.’’ Mickey knew he was in the middle of a con play. ‘’Are you Jewish?’’ Ashley took a sip of wine from her glass and motioned for the waitress to bring her another one. ‘’I am connected to the Jewish people. I wasn’t born Jewish but I can relate to a lot of things about the Jewish people, like business. It’s why I went on JDate.’’ Mickey looked at her ‘’I met you on Uniting Single Jews With Similar Views.’’ Ashley looked towards the door, her body language was very telling. ‘’Yeah, like I said I like Jews so I joined a couple of sites.’’

A heavy man was at the door looking around and Mickey knew who he was immediately. He was the guy who had been selling Time Shares.’’ He walked over to the table. ‘’Hi, Ash, sorry for taking so long to get here, the Nikkei was hot in Japan and I was making our clients money so it was hard to leave. Hi, I’m Joel Welrath.’’

Ashley asked him if he wanted a drink and he said a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon would work. ‘’I didn’t mean to intrude on your date, but Ashley cares about people and she wants them to make money, so I guess that’s why she called me. We made a guy, Freddie a hundred thousand in three months, and all he had to do was invest ten thousand. I can guarantee the return on your investment.’’

Mickey was flummoxed, what was supposed to be a date was a sales pitch. He smelled stinky fish, the time share people were now trying to hustle something new. This was probably the worst date he had ever been on. The only thing Mickey could do was play and then exit as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

‘’I have been thinking about investing, so your timing is really good. I’m thinking about something that my friend says can make a person a lot of money. He says you should buy time shares and if you do you can also get free luggage.’’

Watching Ashley and Joel react was priceless. Mickey could see the wheels turning. They were communicating telepathically, does this guy know who we are?

Joel was the first to answer. ‘’It just so happens that I know a person who can invest your ten thousand in a time share and you’ll probably get three times the money back every year. If you write me a check for the ten thousand, I can get you in. It has to be on the low, because there are a few rules we’ll be going around.’’ Mickey wanted to scream ‘’You are completely full of shit.’’ Instead, he said, ‘’This is sounding interesting.’’

The waitress came by and asked if they wanted desert. Joel said he wanted a piece of chocolate cake, Ashley ordered a piece of pecan pie, and Mickey took a pass.

‘’I hope you guys will excuse me, but I have to go pay the bartender for a drink I ordered earlier. Ashley was late, so I had a drink and I feel bad that I didn’t pay her for it.’’

Mickey stood up and walked across the restaurant to the bar and the bartender smiled when she saw him. ‘’Sir, I uh, was going to try to come over and tell you about that woman. She was here last week with a guy. The difference was she was blonde last week. She was late and then the fat guy showed up. When the woman and the sweaty guy left, the man who had a blind date with her said that he had met her on a Christian’s single site and she was trying to convince him to invest in some sort of land flip deal. She wanted ten thousand dollars plus she stuck him with the dinner bill including drinks and desert for her buddy. Her ‘’date’’ was so disappointed.’’

Ashley waved at Mickey as he was talking to the bartender and he gave her a very dramatic wave back. ‘’I want to pay you for the ginger ale. I would like to ask you to find the waitress and ask her to tell you how much my meal and two glasses of Chardonnay were. I will give you a hundred dollars, please take out that amount owed plus fifteen percent for her tip and please bring me the change. Ask the waitress to make it look like you’re giving me the change for my drink. Ask the waitress to present a second bill to Ashley and her boyfriend the second I get up to head for the bathroom, cause I’ll actually be heading to the exit. Please ask her to distract them.’’ Mickey handed her the hundred dollar bill and went back to the table.

At the table Mickey looked at the two people he knew were trying to con him and said. ‘’I’ve been thinking about it. I’d like to talk to hundred thousand Freddie.’’

Joel was excited and Ashley had a huge smile on her face, they were certain they had trapped a new sucker.

As Joel was taking out his phone Ashley looked at Mickey with the biggest fake smile he had ever seen. ‘’Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine. I knew you were smart when I met you. After you talk with Freddie, you should e-transfer Joel the money so he can get started on getting you big money right away.’’

As he was dialing the number, the waitress came over with Mickey’s change. He looked at Joel and Ashley and asked them to give him a second as he had to go to the bathroom. ‘’I can’t wait to talk with Freddie.’’ As he headed to the exit he could see the waitress arguing with a now animated Ashley.

Mickey exited and didn’t look back. He headed straight to the parking lot and hopped in his car and took off. He felt a sense of relaxation as he sped away. As soon as he got home he did two things. First he sent an email to the corporate offices of JDate and Uniting Single Jews With Similar Views about Ashley and her scam. Next he removed his name and profile from the dating app.

Both Jeb and Ellie wanted to hear about everything and he started to tell them about the date. He was just at the part where he went and told the bartender to rescue him when he remembered that he had the change from the waitress in his pocket. He pulled it out and in the middle of the bills, there was a slip of paper. It read ‘’I’d love to go out with you sometime if you’re interested, and I won’t try to get you to invest in any land flips, your favourite Bartender, Janice.’’ Mickey looked at the note and told his kids that the worst date that he ever had might still turn out okay.

That night when he was in bed thinking about everything he thought about Ashley arguing with the waitress about the bill and it made him burst out in laughter. Joel might’ve had to call Freddie to loan him some money so he could pay for their deserts.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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