THE CLOAKING CON

Some of the most nefarious flimflammers in our midst are the Cloaking Gypmeisters. Even the most jaded travelers have tumbled to their wiles. What they do is disguise themselves in order to dupe weary tourists. They win confidence. So much confidence, in fact, that the tourists end up giving the scammers their dough! Sound incredible? Here’s a recent case of sharp-dressed gypmeisters fronting as cops.

No spoofing. These unscrupulous muckers ought to be ashamed. Posing as bulls, then fleecing their victims for all their hard-earned scratch. Last Christmas Day I ran into them near the Sagrada Familia. I was deep cover. Had my gabardine coat open, casual style, my stetson pulled low. I was on the lookout for JDLRs, or folks that Just Don’t Look Right.

I was across the street from the cathedral, sitting at this patterned aluminum table, eating a hot dog. The food vendor nearby was listening to José Feliciano on a small transistor radio turned up to distorting levels. Brats and their parents milled around the zone. I had a copy of Sport and made like I was poring over it when a big tour bus pulled up. Tourists filed out and re-grouped in front of the bus where a tour guide gave them instructions. They had approximately one hour and a half to enjoy the delightful cathedral and get some grub. They splintered off into little packs.

An elderly Jap couple sporting urban safari gear stayed behind. The Jap gent had his camera out. His wife made cutesy poses for him while he strategically snapped pics of her with the cathedral in the background. It was routine. Rote for a tourist. A sweet opportunity for a slick gypmeister.

A fellow that looked like an American tourist approached them. He was sporting white sneakers, a fanny pack, Bermuda shorts and a college football tee tucked in over his paunch. He was as wide as he was tall, and his skin was the color of Lambrusco, and just as transparent. He handed them a camera. Through his gesticulations I could tell he wanted the Jap gent to snap a pic of him and the cathedral. Just then two sharp-dressed birds closed in on the flanks of the yank tourist. They wore matching dark denim and dark sports jackets. Dark hair slicked over their domes.

Textbook JDLRs. But these dandified greasers sure had me fooled, as you’re about to see.

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Read the rest of this story in Larry Kovaks’ book, City of Crime, available now in print or in e-book format. You can also preview the book here.

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