It isn’t often that someone who gets scammed out of money by a con artist gets a chance to get even. But that’s apparently what happened earlier this month, when a victim taken for $2,000 set a trap that snared the man who allegedly took his money.
On Aug. 31, a 50-year-old Bellwood man got what seemed like an offer that was too good to pass up. At a party that night he met someone who said he had a friend who could get him deep discounts on electronic equipment.
The man gave his friend his phone number and someone named “Frank” called him back, instructing the man to go to the Walmart at 1300 Desplaines Ave. in Forest Park on Sept. 1.
In exchange for $2,000 in cash, the man would receive a 65-inch flat panel TV, two 47-inch TVs and three iPads.
When the victim arrived at the store, he called “Frank,” who directed him to an aisle where there was a large contractor-style clipboard that had a compartment for paperwork. “Frank” told the victim to place the envelope filled with cash inside the compartment and remove another envelope already there.
Then “Frank” told the victim to head to the customer service area and wait there. After waiting at the customer service area for a few minutes, the victim sensed something wrong and called “Frank,” who failed to answer his phone. The victim then went back to the clipboard, but his envelope of cash was gone.
That night, the victim went to another party and met a female friend of his, who happened to mention that she was about to get a great deal on some electronics through a guy named “Frank.”
A light bulb went off in the victim’s brain, and he hatched a scheme to nail the man who made a dupe of him.
The victim enlisted his wife to take the place of his female acquaintance and convinced another male friend to serve as an in-store lookout for “Frank,” who would be giving directions by phone.
This time, “Frank” chose Best Buy, 2358 Harlem Ave. in North Riverside, as the hunting ground for his next pigeon.
On Sept. 2 at about 5 p.m., the victim’s wife entered Best Buy and began receiving directions from “Frank,” who told her to go to the appliance area and to put her envelope in a refrigerator and take the envelope already inside the refrigerator to the computer department.
Meanwhile, the victim’s lookout trailed “Frank” and noticed “Frank” had come into the store with another man. The lookout reportedly heard “Frank” give directions to the victim’s wife over the phone.
“Frank’s” alleged accomplice noticed the lookout and attempted to flee the store, but the lookout confronted him outside, and store security detained him. Meanwhile, security also corralled “Frank,” who turned out to be Jesse Martin, 35, of Chicago.
Police charged Martin with one count of theft by deception. Police also reportedly identified Martin as being one of two men caught on surveillance video inside the Forest Park Walmart at the time of the Sept. 1 pigeon drop. Police also reported recovering evidence of phone calls and text messages to and from the victim’s phone on Martin’s cellphone.