Almanac

News - August 25, 2010

Traveling con man arrested in Menlo Park

• Police uncover prior convictions for fraud.

by Sandy Brundage

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" talked her out of $1,900, 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's posed 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's charged with resisting arrest, obtaining money under false pretenses, and grand theft. At an Aug. 18 court hearing, Mr. Gann got one thing he wanted — a court-appointed attorney. But so did the prosecutor. The con man's bail tripled to $100,000, after police discovered his prior criminal history.

San Mateo County Court Superior Judge John Runde reversed an earlier ruling that Mr. Gann had enough assets to pay for legal representation, but agreed with Deputy District Attorney Holly Davidson that the defendant's criminal history made him a flight risk.

Last fall the 29-year-old man pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two for uttering threats in Canada, according to Det. Jordan Latter of the Toronto police department, who supervised the case. Upon hearing of Mr. Gann's Aug. 16 arrest, the detective sounded pleased. "Great," he said. "He comes across as a really nice guy, but deceptive."

Mr. Gann used the same scam up north as he allegedly pulled on a 32-year-old Menlo Park woman, and he made the same mistake — choosing a victim smarter than he is. A suspicious girlfriend reported him to Toronto police after his extravagant tales about wealth and elite education sounded fishy once he started asking her for money.

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.

It's a long trip from Toronto to Menlo Park. Det. Latter said Canada deported the con artist after he served less than a year in prison. "Once they're out of the country we don't get any information on where they are or what they're up to," the detective noted.

Mr. Gann pleaded not guilty in San Mateo County Superior Court before the judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 27.

His 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.

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