How this litigator fell for a scam


Nick Roumel

He came to my door on Greek Easter morning. 

Our doorbell doesn’t ring often, especially early on Sundays.

I had just gotten out of the shower, and when I heard the bell, quizzically went to put on a shirt before answering the door.

Rod Snyder introduced himself as our new neighbor who had just moved into 2730, just a few doors down the street.

I asked a few questions about which house and never was clear on that; but we were soon getting to know each other.

I told him about my family, and he explained he’d just gotten home from service in Iraq. He looked the part: late twenties, fit, muscular, crewcut. He was dressed casually but neat.

Firm handshake and looked me square in the eye. It wasn’t until a few minutes had passed when he said, “This is embarrassing …”

He explained his car broke down, one of his wheels had lost traction and his car was sticking partway out into the road.

I leaned out the door and craned my head to the right, to where his driveway would be.

“Oh no not here,” Rod said. “Up off Plymouth Road.” He must have seen my puzzled look and said “I drove my other vehicle here, this piece of s*** van,” gesturing across the street.

Then he got to the real purpose. “Since I’ve been back I haven’t had time to get set up with any accounts or anything, and I need some money for the tow truck, $120. I’ve got $76 so far, if you want to see it …”
He started reaching into his pocket, but I shook my head no. I don’t have a lot of cash, I told him, but I can spot you $20.

I went to get my wallet. I gave him a business card and wrote my cell phone number down. He told me his cell phone number and said he would return soon to repay me. He got in the van  parked across the street and drove away.

I realize how dubious this whole story sounds, but it didn’t hit me until I drove down the street and passed 2730. The for sale sign was still in the yard, and did not indicate a “sale pending.”  The empty house was apparent through the picture window.

In fact, I had just the previous week done a virtual online tour of that house, sending the listing to friends who are looking..

The questions were obvious; I just didn’t see them then.

Why would someone whose car had broken down five miles away make the time and effort to get to their second vehicle, only to drive back into their neighborhood instead of staying with their car?
And if he lived four houses down, why did he drive to my house instead of walking?

And then, after I gave him $20, that I’ll never see again, why did he drive away, instead of going  to the next “new neighbor,” when he was still about $24 short of the cost of a tow truck?

Why didn’t he have a bank account, credit cards, friends, family?

I did weakly ask one question --- whether he’d been to the VA for help, but he waved me off with an “oh yeah, I’ve been there,” and I didn’t cross-examine him further.

Pretty lame for an experienced litigator like me.

Why did I fall for it so easily — and $20 to boot?

It’s because he was so darned convincing. He looked and sounded the part.  He looked me in the eye and got me with his story of being a vet.

I even thanked him for his service.

We’ve all been approached by strangers with sob stories asking for money for bus fare, car repair, you name it; and dismiss it out of hand.

But Rod sold me, frankly,  with his convincing manner, and because of that, I overlooked the holes in his story.

It got me to thinking. We face this as litigators all the time.

We take whatever story our client has given us and do our level best to convince others of its merit or credibility.

And when it comes from opposing counsel, sometimes we just look at the judge incredulously, nodding in agreement, and wonder how he can buy this crap.  Just because counsel looks the part and sounds convincing.

I called the number Rod gave me later in the day. No one answered, but the voice mail said Rod Snyder.

That was the last I heard of our “new neighbor.” I didn’t leave a message, but did consider briefly inviting him for Easter dinner.  But I doubt that my call even reached the same phone “Rod” was holding when he came to my door. Why didn’t I call his number right then, “so he’d have mine”? Why didn’t I get the license plate?

Because a convincing con man took advantage of my good graces when I was feeling the holiday cheer.

I bet the next time he pulls the scam he’ll say his name is Nick Roumel, and give out my number. 

Here’s to you, Rod. Thank you for your “service.”


  Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC.