The suspected perpetrator(s) of a scam that cost Kakao Chocolate $18 on March 31, pulled the same trick successfully at at least two other Maplewood businesses the same day.
The suspect had rolls of pennies, with dimes on the ends, so each roll looked like rolled dimes, worth $5 each. He traded four of the rolls for a $20-bill at Kakao.
Tony Johnson, manager at Foundation Grounds, said a man came in around 4:30 p.m. on March 31 and told an employee he was making a Jimmy John’s delivery, and wanted to trade coins for $20. Johnson said they were busy at the time, and the employee made the exchange.
“The next day (when he came in) was April 1, so I thought maybe the night crew was missing with us,” he said. “He got us for $20.”
The same day, the bar manager at The Post, Brent Mortara traded $30 in currency for the bogus rolled coins.
“He checked the ends, but he didn’t open them,” said Mortara’s wife, Lindsay, who also works at The Post, “He said he seemed like a nice guy just trying to get some dollars. He definitely tricked him.”
The scam was attempted again on April 17. It didn't work at Maya Café, but an employee at the Wood fell for it.
“I’ve told my people, absolutely, under no circumstance do we ever take rolled coins from anybody, even to pay for a tab,” The Wood owner, Mike Jacks said. “It’s paper money or credit card.”
But a little after 11 a.m., a man asked Jacks’ bartender for a $20-bill for rolled coins, and the trade was made. Jacks said he saw the rolled coins in the drawer afterward and knew what had happened.
An attempt was made at Maya Café before 11 a.m. Employee Dana Merritt said a man in his early 20s with dark hair, baggy shirt and jeans came in asking for a job, then asked if he could trade $15 in coins for currency.
“I thought that was kind of weird,” she said. “As soon as it hit my hand it clicked with me. I said, 'we don’t even use dimes.'” She said they always round up when giving change.
Crow’s Nest owner Mike McLoughlin said it hasn’t been tried there, and wouldn’t work because he never uses anything smaller than quarters. He rounds up to the nearest quarter for change. He also said he had seen an email from Kakao, and got a phone call from Maya Café on April 17 warning him about it.
Jimmy John’s owner Boo Conner said it hasn’t been tried there, but she’s prepared. She’s taped a note to the cash register that states: “Do not buy any rolled change from anyone.”
She has a store on Oakland Avenue, which was a victim of the scam.
Maplewood Police Sgt. Matt Nighbor said the department told business owners to call Maplewood Police with a description of the subject if it’s tried, and they’ll send officers.
The Maplewood Police Department sent out descriptions for three different suspects on Friday, including a photograph of a suspect.
- White male with blonde hair, approximately 5’10–5’11 and a slender build
- White male with dark hair, approximately 5’7–5’10 with a slender build
- Female with medium length hair and average build.
The photo is of a suspect in the Maplewood crimes that has been arrested by the Belleville, IL, police on April 15 for the same crime.
Maplewood business-owners have been invited to meet with police officers from Maplewood and other cities, Wednesday at city hall, to talk about current crime trends.