A potential threat has returned to the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston. It does not involve flipping cars or hoards of people; it comes in the form of a nice man in a suit.
Early in November, John R. was walking down Brookline Ave. and saw a man he has seen before; this actually was the fourth time John has seen this man. He instantly recognized the man as Elliott Davis, Boston’s all-too-well-known con man.
Stories of encounters with Davis date back to 2002 and some say he has been at it for twenty years, but the stories are generally all the same. A “well-dressed dude” walks up to his victim and begins telling a “sob-story” about his son. Davis says that he just needs a few bucks (“a few bucks” has reached as high as $80 in some stories) to pay for a tow for his car. Davis claims that he has just picked his son up from the hospital and that his son is very sick.
In Kevin Bonham’s case, Davis asked for only $14 to buy fix-a-flat. This was a few years ago and Bonham was and still is a graduate student at Harvard living in Cambridge so he was uneasy to give that money to a stranger.
Bonham did not have any cash on him, and told Davis so. Bonham then offered to ride his bike to a store to buy it for him, but Davis declined saying that he does not know where he could go to get one.
“The fact that he didn’t know where should have been my first clue, but I think the fact that he was well-dressed, and the amount he asked for was so specific that it waylaid my suspicion,” Bonham said.
Davis then began getting a little more aggressive. He pointed to a nearby hotel and told Bonham that there was an ATM right there in the lobby that he could use. Bonham still felt uneasy; the $14 dollars he would give to Davis would end up being $25 for him because of the amount he could have taken out of the ATM and the ATM’s surcharge.
Davis gave Bonham his phone number and promised that he was good for the money, but Bonham still felt uncomfortable about giving him the money.
But right at this point, another biker showed up and exposed Davis’s plan to scam Bonham. Davis swiftly escaped unseen and a police officer showed up a little bit later after being flagged down by the other biker. Bonham gave the officer a statement and the incident was over. Bonham said of the scam:
“I don’t remember being surprised when the other bicyclist told me—he was pretty angry—and I wasn’t particularly mad at the guy, I was more surprised that I had almost fallen for such an obvious (in hindsight) ruse.”
When Branden T., electrical engineer now residing in Reading, Mass., encountered Davis a few years ago, he was walking down Huntington Ave. at 11:00 pm after dropping his girlfriend off at her house. Davis gave Branden the same “sob-story” that Bonham had received, except Davis now asked for $40.
Davis offered to give Branden his jacket as collateral for the money and also gave him his work phone number where he could reach him the next day. Branden gave Davis the $20 that he had on him. He offered to go back to his apartment and get another $20, and Davis kindly accepted. Davis waited outside while Branden went in and got the money, and left, with many thanks.
“Later my roommates assured me I had been had, and wasn’t going to get paid back. I called his number and got some random company. Obviously he wasn’t to be found. I reported him to campus police, but they couldn’t do much,” said Branden.
A few months later, Branden encountered Davis once again near the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Davis gave the same story, and Branden swiftly replied saying that he still owed him the last $40. Davis suddenly turned very humble and ran away. Branden went to campus police and drove around the block a few times with the officer, but once again, there was nothing they could do.
Now, back to early November. John was walking on Brookline Ave., and saw Davis harassing a biker. John decided this was a good opportunity to expose Elliott Davis once and for all. John took out his cell phone to take a picture of the con man.
As soon as Davis saw John take out his phone, he stopped talking to the biker and started walking towards the picture-taker. John managed to take one picture before being aggressively pushed into the middle of Brookline Ave. and Davis threatened to smash the phone.
John ran into a nearby Starbucks where Davis threatened to beat him up. The biker threatened to call the police, as did the barista at Starbucks. Davis then ran out of the Starbucks and has not been reportedly seen since.
Even if the police were called, there would be nothing they could do because Davis did not actually take any money from anyone, and if he did, then it would not be stealing because the victim willingly gave Davis the money. It is not a crime to lie if one is not under oath. John said that the only way to combat scams like this is to create more and more public awareness that scams like these do occur on an everyday basis.
There have been rumors that Davis was in jail at some point over the past two years, but no one seems to know the reasons why he was imprisoned.
Bonham, Branden, and John all still expect to see Elliott Davis on the streets. There have been a few pictures taken of him. Davis actually allowed one person to take a picture of him to establish trust and has been said to show his real Massachusetts driver’s license so his victims believe he is legitimate.
The best advice to know is that Davis comes across as a nice, genuine man, but gets angrier as the time wears on. Davis usually roams the streets late at night, preying on college-age people, and largely targeting Asian or visibly international people.
Be safe, and keep your wallet shut.