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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

'Goldman Sachs' swindler fools firms

originally appeared in USA Today:

An alleged con artist wanted in at least three other states apparently swindled an array of prominent Nashville businesses in recent weeks by writing worthless checks and pretending to be the wealthy owner of a company specializing in health care, U.S. Defense department contracts and gas refinement.

Over a seven-week period starting in mid-November, Steven Goldmann is alleged to have conned a local real estate company, a Nashville fashion designer, a vintage guitar shop, a limousine company, at least one hotel, a furniture store, an audiovisual company, a helicopter rental business and a Hooters waitress out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Goldmann was arrested on Friday after Hilton Nashville Downtown General Manager Ray Waters became suspicious during a conversation with Goldmann, who said he wanted to land his rental helicopter on the hotel property.

After rejecting the helicopter request, Waters checked a city property records website and discovered that Goldmann's story about owning expensive pieces of Nashville real estate was false.

Waters called the police, who arrested Goldmann at the hotel on an outstanding warrant in Montana, where he is set to be extradited on a charge of writing more than 20 worthless checks totaling more than $5,000. But a slew of Nashville business owners apparently fell victim to Goldmann's elaborate story.

With a cheery bravado, Goldmann told his alleged victims that he was the millionaire owner of a successful company, though the nature of his business changed depending on whom he was dealing with. Goldmann was transported around Nashville by helicopter and in extravagant cars provided by Metro Livery, which says it is owed $12,000 for the vehicles and drivers it provided.

In addition to the Hilton, Goldmann rented a room at another downtown hotel during his stay, but in December he sought more permanent digs. He contacted the real estate firm Fridrich and Clark about a listing for an opulent house a few doors down from the governor's mansion.

A local real estate agent said Goldmann carried himself with confidence and talked in detail about his multipronged business specializing in health care services and gas refinery. Goldmann wrote checks for a deposit and the first month's rent at the mansion, but the agent said they never cleared.

When Repass visited the mansion about the matter, he found that Goldmann had changed the locks and spent tens of thousands of dollars to have the home decorated with new furniture, televisions and other audiovisual equipment. Repass said the furniture company and audiovisual company took back their merchandise when Goldmann's checks didn't clear.

Nice guy, very presentable, kind of a young hipster look, according to the real estate agent. When he saw the house, he said, 'This is very perfect. I've got a company I'm moving to Nashville, kind of a multipronged thing.'

'He made it look good'

Goldmann also ran afoul of local businesses when, authorities say, he used worthless checks to purchase lavish gifts for a girlfriend who worked at a local Hooters, and her family.

A renowned designer and owner of world-famous Manuel American Designs, said he sold more than $15,000 in high-end fashions to Goldmann, including a specially made $7,000 purse for a girlfriend.

He called me on the phone first of all and says, 'Can you make me a copy of a Christian Dior purse?' according to the designer. I said, 'I don't make up so many things, but I can make you something better.'

The designer worked the week of Christmas making the purse, and Goldmann visited the store on multiple occasions while he waited for its completion. He said Goldmann took an interest in other items at the boutique and wrote two large checks to cover the cost.

He made me a believer, the designer said. He even mentioned Goldman Sachs, the (investment) company; he said he was a family descendent. He made it look good, period.

Never, never, never, never in my life have I had something like this before. This was a new fish obviously, and made a believer out of me.

Goldmann also tried to write a check in order to purchase a $5,000 guitar from Music City Pickers, according to the owner of the vintage instrument shop.

I told him I don't do checks like that, but he asked if I could make him a gift receipt so he could give it to his father-in-law for Christmas, he said, adding that he went ahead and printed a gift receipt after Goldmann led him to believe he owned a company with lucrative defense contracts.

When the man Goldmann said was his father-in-law showed up to claim his Christmas present, the instrument shop owner balked because Goldmann had failed to come through with the payment.

He was a modern-day scam artist, according to the shop owner, adding that the girlfriend who worked at Hooters also was a victim. Like Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Catch Me If You Can.'

The co-manager of Metro Livery, said it was sad that someone with enough intelligence to fool such prominent businesses was using his gifts for the wrong reasons.

We hope, number one, that we get paid the $12,000, she said. The best part of him being off the street is now we can watch so no one else is affected.

As of late Monday, Goldmann had not been charged with any crimes in Nashville, though an investigation is ongoing, according to a police spokeswoman. He is being held on a $200,000 bond.

Goldmann is wanted in connection with similar alleged crimes in Montana, Minnesota and Oklahoma.