Student reports losing $200 to parking lot swindler

by Tim Sturrock

Janey Hsu, 18, was walking to her car near Middlebrook Hall two Saturdays ago when a man convinced her to give him $200 to retrieve his car from the Minneapolis impound lot. He promised to call her and arrange to pay her back, but she never saw him again.

The man said his name was Markus Johnson and his car had been towed from an emergency parking lot, Hsu said, but he said he didn’t have any identification or money because he left his wallet in the car. Also, Hsu said the man told her he didn’t have anyone he could call because he just moved from California.

“He was saying how horrible people could be and so I decided to be nice to him.”

Hsu said she believed the man because he was so grateful and claimed to be a devout Christian. He called her “sister” and said “God bless you” all the way to an ATM, where she handed over the cash.

The two separated, Hsu said, she drove to her job, and Johnson told her he would call her when he got his car.

An hour later, when she called the cell phone number Johnson gave her, an irritated woman answered and said several fraud victims had called her asking for Markus Johnson and their money.

“She said, ‘I don’t have your money, I’m not Markus Johnson. Stop calling.'”

Hsu said the woman told her she didn’t understand why people continued to give Johnson money.

Although Hsu’s trust in people has waned, she said she’ll still help people on one condition: “If it doesn’t involve money I’m happy to do it.”

University police Chief George Aylward had simple advice to students who want to avoid being con artist victims: “Don’t give money to strangers.”

In other police news

ïA brick smashed through a window at the Station 19 Architects, Inc. building early Friday morning, marking the second time in a month that has happened.

Darrel LeBarron, co-owner of the former firehouse on University Avenue and Oak Street and president of the architecture firm, said the burglar only had time to move a used computer before an alarm apparently scared him away.

LeBarron said he is amazed that anyone would try to steal a used computer. Normally his company has to pay someone to dispose of its obsolete computers.

“He couldn’t have had more than a 70 I.Q. because there’s nothing in here – a used computer, give me a break.” LeBarron said. “It’s what I call a stupid crime.”

ïA burglar or burglars broke into an apartment on 14th Avenue Southeast in Dinkytown this weekend. The suspects took nothing but left a mess.

Katherine Arndt said she and her roommate had just returned to their basement apartment early Monday morning from a weekend out of town.

When they found their door unlocked, they became scared.

“We went in together, grabbed a knife from the kitchen and started checking things out,” Arndt said.

Arndt said while she and her roommate didn’t find anything missing, the floor was covered with mud, a window was broken and the suspects had rummaged through her clothes. She also discovered their bathroom had been used and someone used a new dish towel to clean up some of the mess.

Arndt said she feels lucky but uncomfortable. She said she will start feeling more comfortable in her home when her landlord fixes the window.

“I am grateful that’s all that happened,” she said. “I’m glad we weren’t at home. I wonder what would have happened if we had been home.”