Ray thought Melvin (inset) was his friend.
Many times you’ll see portrayals of con men in the movies and TV as charming, witty guys who use clever strategies to separate fools from their money. The victims will seem to deserve getting ripped off, and we’ll all want to scold the victims with the wise advice:
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Except in the real world, con men can be bastards.
Ray White is an 88-year-old World War II veteran from Philadelphia. He made friends with a man named Melvin Mcilwaine, who noticed that Mr. White owned two vintage cars in mint condition, a Bentley and a Cadillac. Mr. White, who has no living relatives, took Mr. Mcilwaine out to lunch and they talked about their love of old cars.
Over the course of months, Mr. Mcilwaine told Mr. White that his cars were not safe in the garage where he had them, and they needed to be moved to a safer location. He convinced Mr. White to transfer the car titles to him.
Then he said he needed money to keep the cars safe, so he persuaded Mr. White to take out a $20,000 loan against his house.
And his neighborhood was unsafe, so he should move…
Mr. White was scammed out of his cars, his home was cleared out and all the items in it were stolen, and his house was sold.
He lost everything.
I’m not sure of the exact techniques Mr. Mcilwaine used on Mr. White,
but from what I’ve learned it seems to be a combination of gaining his
confidence as a friend, lying, confusion, and intimidation.
Mr. Mcilwaine was arrested and charged with theft by deception.
Mr. White was embarrassed and angry, yet he survived and said this about the trial of his former friend:
"I think he was counting on me dying, but I have been holding on for this day… I’m not vindictive, I just don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. Death is a kinder fate."
– South Philadelphia man scammed out of his house and cars, Philadelphia Inquirer>>
– South Philly WWII Vet Ready for Trial of Man Charged With Scamming Him Out of $380,000, The Philly Post>>