WESTFIELD, NJ — A con man is has talked several downtown Westfield store owners and employees out of cash, merchants said, and now they’re warning others.
The scam goes like this: The man comes into the shop and says his car broke down. He needs to have it towed, but he’s short the cash to pay the driver and needs to borrow $40 or $50. He tells them he's in their shop all the time. He promises to come back in half an hour with the money, but never returns.
Daniel Schmitz, a manager at Rockin’ Joe’s, said he got taken for $40 last week.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so embarrassed, but I have to borrow $40. I’ll be back in half an hour,'” Schmitz said. The manager asked the man if he could hold on to his phone or driver's license until he returned, but the man had excuses.
“I knew he wasn’t going to come back. He was just too sketchy," Schmitz said. "But it was really busy and I thought, 'I'll give it to him out of the kindness of my heart.'”
Later, Schmitz saw the man’s photo in the window of another shop — a still shot taken from a surveillance camera with a warning that he was targeting Westfield merchants.
“He had the nerve — he went in the next day into the coffee shop when I wasn’t there and had coffee shop with his friends,” Schmitz said. When another worker told him about that, “I was so mad," he said.
One store owner, who asked that her name not be published, said that she and her husband were scammed out of $50 by the same man. She knew of at least one other incident downtown, at a pizza shop last Friday night. Now she’s warning others.
“I just don’t want it to happen to someone else,” she said.