Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Colorado con man is revealed

This week's NY Times reports:
The thick-muscled man with close-cropped hair who called himself Rick Duncan seemed right out of central casting as a prop for a Democratic candidate running against Bush administration policies last fall.

Richard G. Strandlof, in his guise as Rick Duncan, an Iraq war veteran, appeared in campaign commercials for Hal Bidlack.

A former Marine Corps captain who suffered brain trauma from a roadside bomb in Iraq and was at the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. An advocate for veterans rights who opposed the war. An Annapolis graduate who was proudly gay. With his gold-plated credentials, he commanded the respect and attention of not just politicians, but also police chiefs, reporters and veterans advocates for the better part of two years.

Yet, except for his first name, virtually none of his story was true. In reality, he was Richard G. Strandlof, a charismatic drifter with a history of mental illness and petty crimes who had moved from Montana to Nevada to Colorado, assuming different names and identities along the way.

It's fascinating to me how some individuals seem to gain the confidence of everyone they meet. Ocassionally, individuals who have this charisma seem to thrive on telling tales that are bigger than life. When this happens in a hedge fund we see investors losing millions and even billions. In this case, it happened with an individual who claimed he was trying to do good. Others are not so sure now and wonder if he just liked the attention and power he was getting. Regardless of the reality in this case, it's a sad fact that we need to be skeptical of any individual who gains the confidence of all those around him or her. Watch out for the 'con' man who seems to effortlessly gain nearly everyone's confidence. They seem to be attracted to politics and business.

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