By Sandy Brundage
Almanac Staff Writer
There's your run-of-the-mill bad boyfriend, and then there's Simon Gann. A 32-year-old Menlo Park woman suspected that the man she'd been dating was not who he said he was, despite his claims of being a math savant and purchasing a multi-million dollar San Francisco home.
Since "Saleem Dutante" was talking her out of money, the identity confusion set off alarm bells. After she found he had an I.D. card bearing a different name, a quick search of the Internet justified her misgivings.
Turns out his real name is Simon Gann. Far from being the wealthy doctor or prestigious mathematician he reportedly poses as, the 29-year-old man is infamous for a long string of alleged fraud victims tossed aside in his wake across the United States and Canada.
Menlo Park police arrested Mr. Gann on Monday, Aug. 16, after finding him hiding in his latest victim's closet.
He is charged with resisting arrest, obtaining money under false pretenses, and grand theft, to the tune of $1,900.
Apparently quite mobile, Mr. Gann also has a warrant out in New Hampshire, and was arrested last August in Ottawa. The charges? Fraud.
The police said Mr. Gann allegedly targets women and men at social venues like coffee shops or bars, claiming to be a well-to-do victim of theft who just needs a little loan to get back on his feet after losing all of his personal identification.
The Menlo Park victim met Mr. Gann at Starbucks a few weeks ago. He spoke of graduating from MIT and started a romantic relationship; she loaned him money to help replace his passport, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. "But she had a great nose and smelled a rat."
Mr. Gann's identical twin brother, Jordan, is serving five years in Florida prison for conning a woman out of thousands of dollars by posing as an Ivy League oncologist and real estate mogul in 2008.
One woman, Meredith Gavin of New York, maintains a website chronicling her experiences with the Gann brothers. She said she met one of the twins (she isn't sure which) seven years ago in an Orlando bar. "I go back and forth," she said. "I swear it was Jordan, but then Simon continues to stay in touch with me."
She described the man she met as "really smart, really smooth," a man who claimed to have just come from a meeting where he sold his rights to a cancer research technique, and had apparently legitimate documents to prove it.
The two hung out for about a week, until a friend of hers voiced suspicions after Mr. Gann said he had tickets to a non-existent basketball game. She started checking his voicemails and realized something wasn't right. The man vanished, along with her money, but left behind a pregnant Meredith Gavin. She still does not know which identical twin fathered her son.
She started the website in hopes of saving someone else from being conned. "People don't report it because they're embarrassed, and ashamed. I was the same way. I know how I felt and I was angry that no one tried to stop that from happening to me," Ms. Gavin said.
"If you think something is off, it probably is. Think about how you feel, and how you could prevent that from happening to someone else by coming forward."
Ms. Gavin said she received e-mails indicating Simon Gann had been in California for at least five weeks.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach set bail at $30,000, and he did not qualify for a private defender provided by the county, according to Mr. Wagstaffe. The defendant listed a New York address and declared himself unemployed.
The deputy district attorney said Mr. Gann would remain here until this case is resolved, then he would be transferred to other jurisdictions to face outstanding charges.
Mr. Gann listed a Pacifica woman as an emergency contact. Police ask that anyone with information about this man call 650-330-6300 or the anonymous tip line at 650-330-6395.