U students report con schemes; one suspect arrested

Tim Sturrock

University police said officers arrested a man Thursday who allegedly swindled a University freshman out of $400 and then drove him around Minneapolis demanding more money.

Police said they’ve identified the man as 36-year-old Lexy Dove. Dove has been convicted of at least 12 felonies since the mid-1980s, including a theft by swindle in 1996.

The scam began Oct. 3 when University freshman Carson Glad said he saw Dove dressed in a suit on Oak Street and Delaware Avenue asking passers-by for help. While Glad said other people ignored Dove, he felt like he should do something. “He looked like a nice guy, and I thought I should help him,” he said.

Glad said the man called himself Larry Johnson, told Glad his car was at an auto shop and that he needed some money to access a bank transfer.

Glad said he drove Dove to a bank in St. Paul and wrote him two checks totaling $400. He said Dove told him the money wouldn’t be available until 8 p.m., and he would meet Glad at 8:30 p.m. in front of the Radisson Hotel on Washington Avenue Southeast. He said the two exchanged telephone numbers.

Eight-thirty came and went, Glad said, and Dove called at 10 p.m. and asked Glad to meet him at the Radisson the next day.

Dove arrived at noon and told Glad to get in the car, the 19-year-old said. When he got in the car, Glad said he became scared when he saw Dove had a gun in his belt.

“(Dove) said, ‘This is what we’re going to do. I need some money and I have some errands to run,'” Glad said. “He didn’t say why I should do this or what he was going to do with the money.”

Glad said he doubted Dove’s story a day earlier. “But when I saw that gun there, and then him being demanding, I knew I was in way over my head.”

Over the next few hours Dove took Glad to five local TCF banks, told him to write and cash checks for $250 and give the money to Dove, Glad said. Two banks cashed the checks; the others told Glad he had insufficient funds. Glad said Dove came into some of the banks, but not into banks where Glad could be seen clearly from the outside.

Glad said he knows he should have asked for help, but he was too afraid.

Dove then took him to an auto parts store, an audio store that didn’t accept checks and two Marshall Field’s department stores, Glad said.

At the second Marshall Field’s, Glad attempted to buy a $200 gift card. Clerks told Glad they had to verify funds.

Glad said, “At that point (Dove) came up behind me and said, ‘Let’s get out of here.'” Dove then told him to get on a bus and go home. He later called the police.

Glad said he wrote more than $1,000 worth of checks.

Glad said the ordeal embarrassed him. “It’s pretty humiliating, but the officers, they’ve all told me not to feel bad because this is the guy’s profession – he tries to convince people to give him money,” he said.

Dove phoned Glad a few days later, Glad said.

“(Dove) said, ‘Oh sorry I haven’t called you, things got messed up here at work. I’d like to meet you again and give you your money,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Yeah right buddy.'”

But there was a catch, Glad said. Dove told Glad he would repay him with a money transfer, but would need an additional $300 to do so. Glad followed police instructions and set up a sting.

Glad said he met Dove in a Brooklyn Park parking lot. He phoned police, who were hidden nearby, as Dove was approaching. Police then arrested Dove.

University police Sgt. David St. Cyr said con artists often target students because many are naive and too trusting.

“This is something that occurs every year to students,” he said.

St. Cyr said he was surprised to make an arrest in the case.

“This is very rare that we even caught this person – very rare. Most often they’ll get the money and leave, and a lot of students will get embarrassed and not tell anyone,” he said.

St. Cyr said the vulnerability of students to swindlers, and Dove’s criminal history, make him believe Dove has been to the University before.

“I know he’s probably worked this area before, because you know you have a lot of students that are somewhat unwise to some of the wheelings and dealings of some of these fast-talkers,” he said.

Glad isn’t the only student conned recently.

Two University freshmen said they were swindled less than two weeks ago by a man who made off with $60 after telling the pair he was stranded on the highway with a flat tire.

Adam Dailey said after a night out, a man approached him and his roommate in a parking garage near Middlebrook Hall and asked for money to fix his tire before state troopers towed his car.

“He said after the terrorist attacks people weren’t very trusting and (people) had been kind of weary,” Dailey said.

The man, who called himself Bill Smith, said he worked for Northwest Airlines and he needed a ride to his deacon’s house, where he could buy a tire, Dailey said.

“He said if we ever needed to go on spring break he’d hook us up with tickets,” Dailey said.

Dailey’s roommate, Joe Burns, said the pair is from a small town and used to trusting people. “He seemed like a nice, sincere guy, like he really needed help. I guess he was just a good actor,” he said.

Burns said he dropped the man off somewhere in Minneapolis after giving him $60.

Once they left, Burns said, they realized the man had been lying. He said he’ll think twice before helping someone, but he hasn’t lost faith in people.

University police Detective Patricia Gjerde said she hasn’t heard of this specific swindle but that most involve a similar ploy.