Scam artists prey on UM students

Police issued two male solicitors on the UM campus a trespass warning for attempting to scam several students out of money.

Robert Wander, 23, and Jason Elster, 22, approached junior Danielle Scott as she drove home and told her they operated a body shop, and would repair her car for $450, she said.

Scott who confessed she initially fell for the men’s offer to fix her bumper, and scratch out a few oxidation marks on her 1993 two-door red Honda Civic for $350.

“I gypped the gypsies,” joked Scott.

After she declined the initial offer, they lowered the price to $350, arguing that other mechanics charge double that amount.

Scott phoned her father, Monty Scott, who lives in Trinidad for advice.

He spoke to one of the solicitors and gave them permission to work on his daughter’s car under the mistaken assumption that the two men were acquaintances of his daughter, and thus, trustworthy, Danielle Scott later learned.

Once the nomadic mechanics got their tools out of the trunk of their 2001 metallic brown rented Mercury Sable and got down to work, Scott’s father became uneasy about the situation.

He urged her to get in touch with her boyfriend in order for him watch over the mechanics’ job.

Unsure of how payment arrangements would proceed and concerned for her safety, Scott was relieved to see a UM police car approach the scene.

“The officer told me Public Security had received a call about a suspicious car at Eaton,” said Scott, who briefed Sergeant Mike Arwood about the turn of events.

Soon, a second officer riding a bicycle joined Arwood, and the two policemen confronted the solicitors, inspected their car, and asked them to leave the premises after filing out a couple of trespass warnings, and taking Polaroid shots of the two.

Junior Erin Lynch came close to doing business with the same individuals a few days before Scott.

One of the solicitors offered to remove a dent on her car for $200.

When she told them the price was too high, they lowered their rate several times before offering to fix it for $30.

Hesitant to allow the strangers to work on her car, Lynch asked them for a business card, which they failed to provide.

That was the end of the deal.

Solicitors of that nature don’t prey exclusively on college students.

“It’s happened to me a couple of times,” said UM’s Lieutenant Bill Gerlach, who also told the Hurricane South Florida is a popular spot for solicitors who walk up to strangers with business propositions that are often fraudulent.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” added Gerlanch, who said he encourages students and others members of the University to call public safety immediately if they find themselves in a situation similar to Scott’s.

“UM is a private entity. University officials have the right to refuse people they don’t want on their property,” explained Coral Gables Police spokesman Ra?l Pedroso.

“People need to be leery of unsolicited propositions such as this one,” said Pedroso. “If you didn’t solicit the repair, you need to be extremely careful.”

When all was said and done, Wander and Elster said their work on Scott’s car was free of charge, and told police they wouldn’t return on campus.

“I was probably a fool to let gypsies work on my car but all’s well that ends well. My mistake got solicitors kicked off campus and my car fixed for free.” said Scott.

February 15, 2002


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.