Skip to main content

tv   The Pretender  MSNBC  July 16, 2011 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT

12:00 pm
i could be anything. i could be anybody. >> he could be charming. >> i woke up and smiled every day. >> the kind of man who drew you in. >> he was very exciting and happy all the time. >> the self-described navy s.e.a.l., football star, millionaire businessman. >> so he was sharp? smart? >> oh, very smart. >> liked the pied piper, he went from town to town. men trusted him. >> he treated me like a father and i treated him like a son. >> women loved him. >> i just fell in love. i think i knew him six weeks when we married.
12:01 pm
>> but u.s. marshals were after him. >> it was very surreal and horrible. >> now a lot of people say they weren't just his partners or loved ones, but they were his victims. >> the very worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life. >> how could someone do that? >> so who is this man? >> i was the best. and that's not bragging. that's being very truthful. >> what was he hiding? >> they're great people. i screwed them. >> in this hour, "the pretender." >> we were emotionally involved with him. he was like our son. >> ralph met the man who would change his life in the summer of 2000 in the most routine way. >> he came here, and he rented an apartment from us. >> ralph and his wife rosalie rent out a small apartment attached to their home in attached to their home near the beach in oceanside, california. but they never had a tenant like
12:02 pm
mike grohgan. >> he had several trucks and motorcycles. we had the space for it. he'd pay for six months ahead of time, cash. >> wow. >> it came to $5,100. >> and the man with the wad of cash and stable of cars was a fascinating character. a retired navy man from the elite s.e.a.l.s unit. so he was sharp, smart? >> oh, very smart. soon mike grogan became a good friend to ralph and his wife. >> we may be watching television at night, and he'll show up with a quart of ice cream or he would bring a whole pizza. and we'd go downstairs and share it with him. >> how often did you eat with him? >> i would say just about every week. >> kind of like a family dinner? >> oh, absolutely. absolutely. >> and in between those family dinners mike grogan began spending time down the road in san diego at a bar called harbor nights. the bar's owner remembers him very well.
12:03 pm
he told me he was the brother of steve grogan, the former new england patriots qb from the 1980s and said he also played for the patriots himself and he played in the super bowl. >> he had the super bowl ring to prove it. he certainly looked the part. about 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds. but mike grogan says it's what he did after the nfl that was really interesting. >> after he left the national football league, he said he went to work for a small company for a small salary of stock options and after a couple of years he accumulated over a million and a half of shares of stock in that company and that company was microsoft. >> yes, that microsoft. which meant mike grogan was rolling in money, which sounded great to the bar owner. >> he wanted to come in here, said he would remodel the restaurant, make it a model for a chain of restaurants he was going to open. >> grogan got the restaurant ready to work, getting the
12:04 pm
restaurant ready to open as grogan's irish steakhouse. while he fixed up the restaurant he became a fixture at the bar, and it's not exactly a trendy bar. so an ex-navy s.e.a.l. and pro-football player that was a multimillionaire made quite an impression on the other regulars. >> just a really cool guy. like the life of a party type guy. and then find out how much money he's got, you know, down here with different cars every day, you know, stuff like that. >> fancy cars and big trucks and hot motorcycles. mike grogan had them all. but he didn't just spend money on himself. grogan took his new friends golfing at pricey clubs, always paying for lunch, dinner, everything, in cash. soon, his landlord and friend also found out just how wealthy mike grogan was. >> something like $23 million worth of microsoft stock. >> 23 million? >> right. >> but grogan was modest, too. when a woman named marina
12:05 pm
started dating him soon after he hired her to work at the restaurant, she says she heard about his wealth and fame from other people. instead, she says, he liked to talk about her. did he listen if you had a problem? >> yeah, totally. he was very exciting and happy all the time. and seemed very generous and liked helping other people. >> in fact, he offered to help her establish better credit by buying some of his cars under her name. >> as those bills were paid, my credit would go up, and it would be better in the long run for me. >> he was equally helpful to the landlords, offering them a stake in a new company he was starting. making computer-assisted design software. how much was 15% of that company going to cost you? >> that cost us $15,000 initially. >> not very much for 15%. >> not very much, no. >> grogan offered 15% ownership in the software start-up to one of his drinking buddies. that deal was even better.
12:06 pm
>> your investment would be your credit and your name. sounds easy enough. >> in other words, he could be part owner just for putting his name on documents and car loans. then, with grogan's steakhouse barely open for business, mike decided to open a pizza place, too. he offered the landlord a piece of the pie. >> what did you invest in that? >> that was $30,000. >> how much money in total did you invest with mike? >> well, we have two mortgages that we took against our home. totaling $83,000. and then we took cash money, we gave him $17,000. >> $100,000? >> right. >> money ralph had worked his whole life to save up. but he expected a much bigger return. and while mike grogan helped his
12:07 pm
friends live their dreams of wealth, he offered a different kind of dream to marina. >> we were having lunch, and it was very all of a sudden. >> what did he say? >> he was just, he just asked me to be his wife. >> do you remember how you felt? >> i was shocked and very shocked. and happy. you know? i just figured, seize the day. might as well. jump in head first. >> he wanted to get married right away. yet at the wedding rehearsal, he seemed nervous. >> i made some comment to him like, i don't know why you're acting so uptight, you should be excited. et cetera, et cetera. and he said something like, it has nothing to do with you. i'll explain later. >> could it be he had an inkling of what was coming that night at the rehearsal dinner? at the restaurant the chef heard from the dishwasher that something wasn't right. >> he said these two old scraggly fishermen guys were here looking for mike.
12:08 pm
>> he was too busy cooking to think about it because mike was hosting all of his friends and investors that night and as usual was sparing no expense. >> the swinging door into the kitchen opened up. i seen the two fishermen guys walk in. i was like, oh. what's going on here? and they asked, you mike grogan? he said yeah. >> one of the waiters came out and said you really need to get out here. he said they're arresting mike. >> those scraggly guys weren't fishermen. they were u.s. marshals. >> they cuffed him. he said, oh, can you please not take me through the front? >> but that's what they did. >> came walking out and, you know, hands behind his back. >> by the time i made it outside, he was already in the police car. >> he was in the back of the car handcuffed. he said, ralph, you have to bail me out. so, my wife and i talked about it. we said, this got to be a mistake. let's bail him out.
12:09 pm
>> ralph tried his best. he was short of cash since he invested so much with mike. but he offered his credit card for the $10,000 bail. and then, he got the shock of his life. when the bail bondsman wouldn't take a chance on mike grogan. why? >> he said this man has other names other than mike grogan. >> other names? his bride-to-be couldn't believe it either. i can't imagine the night before your wedding, the man you're going to spend the rest of your life with -- >> yeah. >> -- is in the back of a police car and a cop is showing you a picture saying, it isn't even him. >> yeah. >> help us understand what that feels like. >> i don't think anybody can understand. it was very -- it was very surreal and horrible. >> a bride left at the altar. friends left with huge debts on luxury cars and an old couple
12:10 pm
who had invested their life savings. they all wanted to know if this man wasn't mike grogan, navy s.e.a.l., football star, millionaire, then who was he? the answer was more complicated than they could imagine. coming up, the con man's past reveals he scored big-time in seattle. >> i saw a million dollar plus check written to open one of the stores. >> and later, he brags about his prowess. >> within two weeks, we would be best friends and he would be investing money.
12:11 pm
12:12 pm
[ male announcer ] you don't make the world's best chicken by pressing a button. it takes a cook. we're kfc and we've got a certified cook in every restaurant freshly making the colonel's original recipe, today and every day. 11 herbs and spices, hand-breaded, hands down the world's best chicken. today is a kfc day. so bring home a real meal -- 10 pieces of that famous chicken, 3 large sides and 6 biscuits. enough real food to feed a family of four or more, just 20 bucks.
12:13 pm
today tastes so good. mike grogan, exex-navy s.e.a.l., ex-football star, was now in jail. and people who considered him a friend, future husband, best friend had trouble believing
12:14 pm
what they began to hear. this is seattle, a ski shop where a man named heitman applied for a salesman job back in 1998. the owner found him impressive. the store owner found him charming and impressive. >> 20 years in the military, been through all the ranks and traveled all over the world. now that he was going to be getting out of the military, wanted to do something that he liked and enjoyed. >> what he wanted to do is sell skis, and he was a natural. so no one paid much attention to one odd little thing. >> when he came to work for us, he came to us and said, hi, i'm bob heitman. so, fine. he was bob. and interestingly enough, his id that he showed us said that he was steve heitman. >> steve or bob loved to talk about his military background. which at times seemed somewhat flexible. >> at first it was the army. and then i believe it was the rangers. and then it was a navy s.e.a.l. so, you know, i never did figure that one out. >> according to the military discharge papers he showed, his
12:15 pm
name was steven dale heitman. he had been in the special forces with advanced training in parasailing and scuba diving, and he had not only been to war in operation desert storm, he had been a hero, awarded a bronze star and a purple heart. one thing was certain. he sure knew how to sell skis. >> you heard him sell skis? >> oh, yeah. >> you just smiled. >> well, just kind of ad lib to make the sale. and he could definitely sell the skis. but he wasn't -- >> he wasn't telling them -- >> he was telling the them the truth. >> not only knew the equipment but had skied on all of it. >> you knew he didn't? >> right. we knew he hadn't. he hadn't three weeks ago and it was obvious. >> because of the lies the manager said she just couldn't trust heitman. so despite his great sales numbers, she moved him out of ski sales and eventually out the door. but not before he met a valued customer named dale. a man who really was a microsoft millionaire.
12:16 pm
dale from microsoft declined to be interviewed for this story but people that know him describe a good-hearted man with a lot of money to invest. he started off buying a pair of skis from steve heitman. and before you know it, was bankrolling a brand new business, a ski shop called nordic sports haus. >> i saw a million dollar plus check written to open one of the stores. >> this man was an early employ of nordic sports haus, the store steve started with dale's money. >> steve was the one running the stores. dale was basically the money man. i'm throwing as much money at this business to make it work. >> according to employees, steve was happy to help dale throw his money away. >> while my truck was in the shop, steve handed me the keys to a $80,000 porsche said drive this for a couple of days. i mean, the perks were unbelievable. >> the perks and promise of opportunity drew a former colleague as well, that quit his job and came to work at steve heitman's place, even though he had seen heitman lie to customers. >> nobody really trusted him.
12:17 pm
>> did you trust him? >> not really. >> in february 1999, the local newspaper did a business feature on the new ski shop in town. steve heitman was interviewed, and his resume expanded to fill the space provided. he said he'd served in germany in the army, studied at the university of heidelberg, and of course, was an expert skier from an early age and had worked for the skimakers atomic and head as a designer and field tester. did you ever see him ski? >> no. nobody had seen him ski. >> steve worked his people hard, but the rewards could be huge. for instance, during a big ski show in las vegas, he took six employees to a nascar race by helicopter. that little field trip cost about ten grand. it may seem like a lot to you, but it was nothing to steve heitman. >> handed me a fanny pack one time, and i go what's in this? he goes, my money.
12:18 pm
hang on to it. i'm like, well, how much money? probably about $200,000, $300,000. >> the ski shop manager who hired and fired steve heitman watched her new competitor spend and spend and scratched her head. >> i hate to tell you it's not a ski industry. we don't make millions of dollars so that really sent up tons of red flags. >> but apparently it did not send up tons of red flags for the money man, dale from microsoft. even when weird things began to happen. >> when i started to question things, was he -- asked me to get cell phones for the company. >> what happened when you got cell phones? >> the credit check came back as steve heitman being deceased. i went to him immediately and said you're coming back dead. >> as usual, steve had an answer. >> when i was in the military in europe, you know, i didn't have to file taxes, and my social security number basically went dormant. >> soon, nordic sports haus grew to a chain of five shops with locations all around the seattle area. steve married a young woman and
12:19 pm
bought a nice house on 13 acres with a pond for steve's jet ski, a dirt track for steve's motorcycle. >> steve had all of the toys. i think dale bought them all. >> actually, it wasn't all dale's money. some of it was the bank's. lured to a business backed by one partner's ski expertise and the other shares in microsoft, banks loaned millions of dollars to nordic sports haus. only problem was the partner with the know-how, that would be steve, didn't seem to know much at all. he ordered way too much merchandise and soon suppliers weren't even getting paid. $400,000 behind just on snowboards. >> 120 days past due after having 90-day terms. >> he says he went to steve with his concerns and steve replied, by forcing him out of the company. by now steve was into another event venture, because, as
12:20 pm
unbelievable as it sounds, he hooked up with a second, even bigger, microsoft millionaire. coming up, the mystery man is identified after robbing the dead. >> just feel like your whole world has been shattered. i mean, how could somebody do that? time for the your business entrepreneur of the week. mike and jennifer were riding through france and had a great dinner when they found it was due to a great salt used. they brought it back and sold it in their store. word of mouth brought an expansion to new york city. watch "your business" sunday mornings on msnbc. almost tastes like one of jack's cereals. fiber one. uh, forgot jack's cereal. [ jack ] what's for breakfast? um... try the number one! [ jack ] yeah, this is pretty good. [ male announcer ] half a day's worth of fiber. fiber one.
12:21 pm
so every year my family throws this great reunion in austin. but this year, i can only afford one trip and i've always wanted to learn how to surf. austin's great -- just not for surfing. so i checked out hotwire. and by booking with them, i saved enough to swing both trips. see, hotwire checks the competition's rates every day so they can guarantee their low prices. that's how i got a 4-star hotel on the beach in san diego for half price. ♪ h-o-t-w-i-r-e ♪ or will soon, you're starting a whole new journey. and, like many people, you're probably wondering, where do i go from here? consider an aarp medicare supplement insurance plan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company. call now for a free information kit
12:22 pm
and guide to medicare to get started. basically, medicare only covers about 80% of your part b medical expenses. the rest is up to you. a medicare supplement insurance plan helps cover some of those expenses. and that can save you up to thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs. plus, you can keep any doctor who accepts medicare patients. together with medicare, an aarp medicare supplement insurance plan could be the kind of coverage you're looking for. in fact, it could make a world of difference. call now for your free medicare guide plaan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company.
12:23 pm
in seattle, steve heitman without spendi a dime of his own money. he had two microsoft millionaires in the palm of his hand. they even bought into an exotic car dealership. and before long, that business was wallowing in debt, too. and then, one day -- >> we were going to meet and ride motorcycles and calling and calling and calling, nope, nobody answers. >> and what happened to him? >> disappeared. straight up disappeared. >> what did you think? >> i laughed. i just -- i spent -- i spent 15 minutes just -- just laughing. >> but the microsoft guys weren't laughing. because when heitman skipped town they claim, he took more than $1 million with him. and he left them with two businesses founded with their
12:24 pm
money which very soon slid into bankruptcy. guys, dale. as did one of the microsoft guys, dale. according to court papers, he had a personal fortune of $4.5 million when he met steve heitman in 1998. by 2000, dale claimed debts of $9.5 million. the seattle media picked up the story, and soon steve heitman's name and face were everywhere. and that's when people realized just as they had in san diego that the man named mike wasn't really mike, that here, the man named steve wasn't steve at all. it's the kind of headline you see every holiday weekend. this particular senseless tragedy took the life of evelyn heitman's oldest son. >> he step backwards, fell over the edge of the rock and went down into the river about 40 feet below.
12:25 pm
>> steve heitman was just 20 when he drowned, and 25 years later, in wenatchee, washington, his mom still grieves. can anybody who hasn't lost a child understand what it's like? >> i don't think so. it's a feeling you never ever get over. >> she was facing another melancholy fourth of july, the anniversary of steve's death, when she came home to find a reporter had left a message on her machine. >> he says i suspect somebody is using your dead son's identity, so i listened to that message at least three or four times. >> do you remember how you felt? >> oh, i mean, just feel like your whole world is -- been shattered. i mean, how could somebody do that? >> but there was the story in the seattle paper called "the eastside journal." a mystery man set up big businesses with other people's money, lived the high life and skipped town with as much as $1.2 million.
12:26 pm
leaving the business and millionaire partner bankrupt. and for all the world knew, this shady character's name was steve heitman, evelyn's son. >> you feel violated. it's an invasion of privacy. >> and for you a sacred memory? >> yeah. >> yet evelyn heitman couldn't figure it out? why her son, why her sacred memory? and who was the man staring at her from the front page of the newspaper? a thousand miles away, a man who had also lost a son was staring at the same newspaper brought to him by a relative. >> and she said this sounds like the guy that scammed you out of your guns and businesses and everything. she handed me the paper. it was jim rowe. >> so finally, the mystery man was identified. not mike or steve or bob. but jim. jim rowe. james ruben rowe, to be exact. at long last a real name, but that was all that was real about
12:27 pm
him. >> it's been very gratifying to be here in st. george. it is a very special place. >> like the time jim rowe in a navy s.e.a.l. uniform spoke to a class of high school students about his years in an elite commando unit, about sacrifice and friendship and faith, in a speech arranged by ron nelson. >> anybody that i served with, i would have gladly laid my life down for. and i can say the same thing for anyone that served with me. >> or when nelson, whose family is prominent in the mormon church, sponsored jim rowe's baptism. >> i just trusted jim wholeheartedly. nobody could make me feel any different. >> and all the while, nelson claims, jim rowe was stealing. like the time rowe brokered the sale of nelson's antique rifles, sold them far too cheap, and pocketed all the proceeds.
12:28 pm
>> he sold $250,000 of them for $38,000. >> he kept the money? >> and kept the money. >> of course, rowe split town soon enough. leaving his friend and surrogate father bankrupt. >> very worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life. i about lost my wife and my family. it's devastating. >> so, when ron nelson saw the man that ruined his life plastered all over the front of the seattle newspaper under the name of steve heitman, he was eager to tell the world the mystery man's real name. and when evelyn heitman heard that name, something finally clicked. >> i recognized the name. so i got the yearbooks out. >> she found him there, jim rowe, a classmate of her long lost son steve. to work his big seattle scheme, the con man had stolen the identity of a dead high school buddy. >> i don't think he feels bad. >> doesn't have a conscience? >> i don't think he does. coming up -- falling in love with the con man. >> he used to take me out in the
12:29 pm
navy dress whites. >> how did you feel then? >> oh, like a queen. verizon claims its 4g lte is twice as fast as at&t. we're putting them to the test against the speed of a rescue unit. go ! they're downloading a music album. the first network to finish gets rescued. does your phone know that we're racing ? done ! verizon's done ! i've got seven left ! the fastest network in america. verizon. built so you can rule the air. now powering the lg revolution. didn't taste so vegetably? well, v8 v-fusion juice gives you a full serving of vegetables, plus a full serving of fruit. but it just tastes like fruit. and try our deliciously refreshing v8 v-fusion + tea.
12:30 pm
helps defends against occasional constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. with three strains of good bacteria to help balance your colon. you had me at "probiotic." [ female announcer ] phillips' colon health.
12:31 pm
12:32 pm
i'm milissa rehberger. here's what's happening. u.s. marshals say 21-year-old james brewer has been recaptured. he allegedly swapped i.d. bracelets with a prisoner yesterday and walked right out of a courthouse. and frontier airlines has canceled nearly 200 flights. a hailstorm at denver airport wednesday night damaged almost a third of airbus' fleet. the cancellations will last at least through monday. now back to "the pretender." broke our family's heart, my heart. i'll say it. ron nelson styles himself an old cowboy, a former gun dealer and broker whose roots in utah go back eight generations. his history with jim rowe began
12:33 pm
in 1992. you see, ron nelson had lost a young son in a terrible accident, and it turned out that jim rowe, too, had a sad secret. >> he said his wife and his two children were burned up in a fire in laurel, mississippi. >> so you had lost a son in a tragic accident? >> i lost a son. >> he told you he lost his whole family? >> that's right. >> in a tragic accident. >> that's right. >> and soon it slipped out that jim rowe was just about the same age as nelson's son would have been had he lived. >> he studied me. he knew all my family. he knew my son was shot and killed. he treated me like a father, and i treated him like a son. maybe the son that got killed. >> from here, things developed in a way you will find depressingly familiar. jim rowe was, as a usual, an ex-navy s.e.a.l., a hero of desert storm, but he wasn't a
12:34 pm
football player yet. southern utah is mountain bike country, so he claimed to be an expert mountain biker. soon he and ron nelson and ron nelson's money were going into business together. but there was more than business here. much more. >> when he left town, i hired a good attorney, and he said my only way out was to file bankruptcy, chapter 7 bankruptcy. i was just devastated. i was, you know, right near suicide. >> imagine, the kind of man who would steal a dead friend's name, trade on the memory of a dead little boy, all in the service of con games. now imagine being married to him. what do you call a crime to what he did to you? what is that crime called? >> i don't know why, but the word murder comes into my mind. >> kimberly met jim rowe even before ron nelson did. she was 24.
12:35 pm
single, two small kids and no money when rowe walked into her life. >> he struck me as handsome and appealing and very warm. and very friendly, and i just wanted to be around him. i wanted to be wherever he was. >> he was, of course, a retired navy s.e.a.l. told her all about his comrades in arms and his combat experience. >> he used to take me out in his navy dress whites. >> how did you feel then? >> oh, like a queen. >> remember how he liked to show a vulnerable side? he told ron nelson his family died in a fire. kimberly heard a more heart wrenching variation, and amazing it begins to seem pathological in its detail. >> he had been out to sea and his wife and three children were driving a little red volkswagen convertible he had bought for them, and they were hit by a drunk driver. the impact was so severe his wife and baby had died
12:36 pm
immediately. and both of the children who were still alive were brain dead. and that he needed to make a decision about removing the life support and then he let his babies go. >> he was strong and sensitive and soon -- >> i just fell in love. i think i knew him six weeks when we got married. >> they moved into a lovely house filled with beautiful antiques. >> i woke up and smiled every day. >> how long was everything perfect? >> six weeks. september 23rd. >> oh, you remember the day? >> yep. >> the phone in the lovely house rang. on the line was a woman jim rowe had called his aunt. a woman who now said she wasn't his aunt at all and who said kimberly's dream house and everything in it was hers. >> she said, did he tell you the furniture belongs to him? i said, yes. she said, did he tell you this house belongs to him?
12:37 pm
i said, yes. she said all of this is mine. >> the woman said she had only known rowe a few weeks, and she didn't think he was who he said he was. jim was away on business, he said, and all alone in that house that suddenly felt so foreign, kimberly began to realize she'd only known him a few weeks herself. >> i just thought, what if? you know, what if? what if? so i called the navy and i asked for the s.e.a.l. team commander that he had named, that he had served under for all those years, and they never heard of him. they transferred me around to a couple of different s.e.a.l. teams in case i had the wrong team. they were very nice to me. but he didn't exist. >> she went stone cold. the rush through her body was fear. the man who swept her off her feet, married her and became father to her children, everything about him was a lie. >> i really don't know if he is someone who just deceived me for
12:38 pm
fun or if he's someone whose intent is to harm my family. could be as frightening as you can imagine because you don't know what you're dealing with at all. >> kimberly grabbed her kids and ran from james rowe, so frightened of him, she changed her name and said the government allowed her to change her social security number, too. >> the thing i don't think that people comprehend is if someone takes a baseball bat and breaks down my front door and comes in and rapes me and harms my children and steals everything i have, the consequence is exactly the same as what i went through with this gentleman. >> what kind of man could do that? what will he have to say for himself? >> i was so far the best i had ever met. but that's not bragging. that's being very truthful. >> coming up, jim rowe reveals the tricks of the trade. >> the quickest way to find out if you can b.s. someone is give them a b.s. answer and see if they go, absolutely? after that, you know it's on. [ male announcer ] it's simple physics...
12:39 pm
a body at rest tends to stay at rest... while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. staying active can actually ease arthritis symptoms. but if you have arthritis, staying active can be difficult. prescription celebrex can help relieve arthritis pain so your body can stay in motion. because just one 200mg celebrex a day can provide 24 hour relief for many with arthritis pain and inflammation. plus, in clinical studies, celebrex is proven to improve daily physical function
12:40 pm
so moving is easier. and celebrex is not a narcotic. when it comes to relieving your arthritis pain, you and your doctor need to balance the benefits with the risks. all prescription nsaids, like celebrex, ibuprofen, naproxen, and meloxicam have the same cardiovascular warning. they all may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke, which can lead to death. this chance increases if you have heart disease or risk factors such as high blood pressure or when nsaids are taken for long periods. nsaids, including celebrex, increase the chance of serious skin or allergic reactions or stomach and intestine problems, such as bleeding and ulcers, which can occur without warning and may cause death. patients also taking aspirin and the elderly are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers. do not take celebrex if you've had an asthma attack, hives, or other allergies to aspirin, nsaids or sulfonamides. get help right away if you have swelling of the face or throat, or trouble breathing. tell your doctor your medical history and find an arthritis treatment for you. visit and ask your doctor about celebrex. for a body in motion.
12:41 pm
12:42 pm
they're great people. i screwed 'em. >> meet james rowe, alias mike grogan, alias steve heitman or aliases galore, investigators say. we interviewed him at a san diego jail where he faced felony charges for stealing the life savings of ralph, his landlord and friend, who we met at the start of our story. at first, he seemed so sorry about all his victims. >> i'm probably feeling half of what i caused. i don't know. pain. remorse. regret. memories of stuff i didn't even remember happened. stuff -- i've never been at a loss for words, and i find
12:43 pm
myself at a loss for words a lot lately so -- >> and yet, as we talked, he sometimes suggested his victims were no more honest than he was. >> if the average person that did business with me had their life opened up the way i had, i wonder how much they would have scrutiny. >> he also tried to minimize the crimes, like the million plus dollars he allegedly stole from the microsoft guys. >> i don't have millions of dollars stashed anywhere. i had $206,000 with me when i left seattle and nine rolex watches. >> he offered tips, too. >> the quickest way to find out if you can bs somebody is to give them a bs answer and see if they go, absolutely. after that, you know that it's on. >> and at times, it must be said he also revealed what can only be called professional pride. >> if you and i sat down in a restaurant, i would be able to ascertain what you wanted and who you were and what i needed to do to get inside of your head probably within 45 minutes. within two weeks we would be best friends, and you would be
12:44 pm
investing money. >> he said his dad was a con man but something of an amateur. so your father was the con man. your mother was the mark? >> my mom was a mark and also a facilitator. she allowed him to be what he was. >> jim rowe is a pro. are you impressed by athletes? he will buy a super bowl ring with someone else's money and then -- >> somebody walked up and said, hey, that's a great ring. did you play? well, hell, yes, i played. you know, it feeds itself. >> or perhaps he is applying for a job at your ski job. what did you tell them about your skiing experience? >> that i was a great skier, that i was on the army's all-ski team. >> you ever skied before? >> not a day in my life. >> yet you will remember he still became a top ski salesman, started a ski business, and allegedly conned not one but two microsoft millionaires.
12:45 pm
some of your victims said, this guy is so smart, he's such a good salesman, he could be a multimillionaire legitimately. but, no, he needed to do it backwards. >> no, it's easier to do it backwards. >> easier? >> sure. come on. i had -- i -- i had two guys from microsoft investing almost $10 million in four months. >> but they would have invested it legitimately. >> i understand that, but i couldn't be legitimate. i didn't know how. >> maybe he really didn't. jim rowe told us about cons stretching back almost two decades all across the country. in massachusetts, a job driving a truck for a lumberyard turned into an embezzlement scheme. >> i think the total is $22,000 they came up with. i think it was a lot more than that. >> in colorado he got a job drilling water wells, and soon his foreman was giving him money. >> i think bob invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $45,000. i don't remember the exact amount. >> he worked at a machine shop near san diego as head of quality control.
12:46 pm
quality control of what? >> precision machine parts. >> what did you know about precision machine parts? >> as much as you do. >> he is not just bragging, by the way. the scams all really happened, and he never went to jail for them. but then, there was the time that he worked for a company that prints blank government checks. >> i took 'em. i put 'em in my briefcase and cashed one check for $57,000. >> he got caught that time and was sent to prison. but then, he walked away from his halfway house and into another almost unbelievable scam. you will remember that one of the most consistent elements of jim rowe's various identities was that of an elite military officer, usually a navy s.e.a.l. most of his victims believed him, perhaps because there was a grain of truth in it. rowe did enlist in the army and the navy and even briefly in the marines. though hardly in an elite capacity.
12:47 pm
>> i wasn't a -- wasn't a navy s.e.a.l. i was a cook. wasn't glamorous. wasn't neat. wasn't exciting. >> but he was familiar enough with the ways of the military. that when he was in san diego on the run from the law he found the perfect hiding place. >> i go down to the army/navy store. i buy a naval officer's uniform. i would take the bus to the sub-base in point loma. >> talked your way on to the base? >> i don't need i.d. nobody is going to question me with five rose of ribbons and a s.e.a.l. crest on his shield. >> posing as a s.e.a.l. >> talking to real life s.e.a.l.s. >> but he didn't spend time swapping war stories. instead, he says, he convinced civilian investors to go in on a phony business supposedly cleaning ships' hulls. and he ran his scam from the base officers' quarters. >> $10,000 minimum investment required.
12:48 pm
and most people that invest money, all 26 of them, invest in cash. >> so you wound up with over $100,000? >> closer to 250, yeah. >> in six months? >> in three weeks. >> you're good. >> i told you that before. >> it sounds unbelievable. but the feds confirm it. and for someone this good, it was almost too easy to steal the identity of an old high school chum in seattle. >> i go to the funeral home. again, i'm in my uniform. i say, i'm so and so and looking up the death of my friend. she goes back to the back and brings a book with the funeral and who attended and his mom's name and maiden name and his social security number and everything. and now i have all the information that i need. and now i go to the public safety building and get a birth certificate. and now i go to north seattle community college and register
12:49 pm
for classes and get the student i.d. card. and now i take that and i go to the seattle public schools, and i get steve's transcripts. and i go to the department of motor vehicles and i get i.d. >> now you're steve? >> now i'm steve. coming up -- people will call you a predator. >> sure. >> is that true? >> probably, yeah. >> but has he turned over a new leaf? >> i know that i read my bible every day. i know that i pray. i know that a lot of it gives me a little comfort.  nnouncer ] where'd you get that idea?
12:50 pm
how'd you learn to do that? what'd you use? every project we finish comes with a story built-in. it's how our rough ideas become "you did that yourself?" so when we can save more on the projects that let us fix, make, and do more... that just makes the stories even better. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. right now, get glentown oak laminate flooring just 68 cents a square foot.
12:51 pm
12:52 pm
did jim roe feel bad about stealing an old high school friend's identity? one who had died in a tragic accident? you decide. >> i feel badly for how his
12:53 pm
parents feel, i truly do. and i can't say anything to them that's going to make them feel any better. but if steve were alive, steve would laugh his butt off at this. he would sit there and howl. >> he says he needed an air-tight new identity to work his magic on the microsoft guys. but for most of his cons, he just made up any name he pleased. >> i rarely used any i.d. i mean, once you've been to a bank three times, they no longer ask you for i.d. make sure you hit the same teller every time. smile and wave at the vice president even if he doesn't know you. he'll wave back and then the teller says if he knows so and so, he is okay. >> are you thinking this consciously when you do it? this is the plan, i have to wave at the vice president? >> yeah. >> little wheels going all the time. >> not one little wheel in there. big, major heavy duty high-powered wheels in there. wheels that he admits just
12:54 pm
crushed his victims. from sharp, young millionaires to trusting women, to vulnerable senior citizens. >> there are two rules that i went by when i was on the outside. conning people. first, it is fool and his money should never be together in the first place, and the second one is, don't get attached to anything you can't leave in ten minutes, ten minutes. bye, got to go. >> but he claims those mental wheels stopped cold after he conned the microsoft guys, while he was still conning the san diego crowd when he fell hard for one woman. he says he knew the feds were closing in as he was planning to marry marina, but he just couldn't leave. he was mortified that she saw him arrested. what did it do to marina? >> it killed her. >> and he says, the sudden realization of the pain he caused, all of the pain he caused, drove him to confess his sins to the law and to us. do you know what the heck you are? >> yeah.
12:55 pm
i'm a guy that has memories of lotus, spree -- low -- lotus espirits that never should have been his in the first place and a girl that has an unfailing love and care for him that is now shattered. that's who i am. and that's why i don't feel very good about me. i hate me. >> prison has a way of changing your perspective. but could it be that the con man finally found and bared his soul? all for the love of a woman, the woman he almost married? >> there is a whole lot of lies that i'm fessing up to right now that go beyond breaking the law, you know? they go beyond being illegal. they go to immorality, they go to cruelness almost. >> for my own well being, i have to believe that there is parts of him that are good. that it wasn't all a fake persona.
12:56 pm
>> but a woman he did marry says don't kid yourself. do you think he was conning us? >> i think everything that comes out of his mouth is a con. i don't think there's any reality for him. >> and amid the lies, emotional wreckage. victims who say he stole much more than their money. he stole their love, their faith in people, as ralph and rosalie testified in court. >> a day doesn't go by that we don't talk about it. >> sure. >> because he left some deep scars. >> sure. >> in our soul, in our hearts. >> because jim rowe has never been accused of physical that changed in san diego when he pleaded guilty to stealing he
12:57 pm
because, you know, society's >> james rowe also faced federal he entered a guilty plea and was in 2005, the federal courts cannot be imposed without a which means jim rowe might be a than his projected release date of felony theft and fraud from where he is accused of conning
12:58 pm
facing an additional three to 15 years if convicted, but >> he doesn't want to live in a society where people trust and together. found peace in some unusual places. finding peace in unusual places like on the stage as a performing hypnotist. scurrying little cockroach and racer, mountain biker, microsoft
12:59 pm
people will call you a predator. >> i could be anything. attorney, steven klein, jim rowe preparing the hearts of the >> i know that i read my bible i know a lot of it gives me a little comfort. courses for three years now and has every intention he says of graduating with a doctorate by the time he's released from


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on