How Peter Falcone Conned Me Out of $37,000 (Part 3)
Con artists are intriguing. Swindlers fascinate us.
Witnessing a crime where the tools of the trade consist of pure intellect and brass balls is infinitely more entertaining than watching a petty stick up. Alas, if the pen is mightier than the sword, then shrewdness is mightier still.
My phone rang Wednesday morning at 7:30 am. An ungodly hour.
“I’ve got his baseball plays,” the voice on the other end said. It was Peter Falcone. “He’s got seven plays today. How many can you take?”
A weary-eyed shuffle over to the computer ensued. I could easily get down $3,000 a game. Even better, since Pinnacle was one of my offshore betting sites, I could save Falcone’s jeweler contact a hundred or two a game on losses, due to their reduced vig. Most middlemen would have dicked the unsuspecting sap on the betting end. But that’s no way to do business — especially with an effortless upside guaranteed already.
“Oh wow, he’s going to love you for that! He’s going to be very excited when he hears the prices he’s getting is better than he’s expecting and are in his favor!”
A short tutorial on sports betting is needed here. Most baseball books deal what’s called a 20-cent line. That means two opposing teams which are listed at “pick ‘em” are lined at the price of $11o to win $100. If you add the difference between the two numbers, that’s 20 cents, thus the term “20 cent line.” However, a game that might have Cleveland -140 / Kansas City +120 elsewhere would be lined at Pinnacle at a discounted vig price — perhaps at Cleveland -136 / Kansas City +129.
Well, with Pinnacle, I was sometimes getting close to a 10-cent line. That meant the jeweler was getting the best price on the planet. A few cents a game might not seem like a big deal. But it is. Multiply a hundred losses by an extra $150 in vig on each game, and that’s fifteen grand over the course of a baseball season.
“He’s going to love you!” Falcone shouted.
The plays were posted. Without much of a forethought, I’d fired about $21,000 worth of betting action. I hung up the phone and went back to bed totally oblivious to the fact that my sports betting ship had just blasted into an iceberg. And here I was, dozing away inside the cabin totally unaware I’d soon be in need of a lifeboat. No one could possibly foresee the disaster about to come.
Later that night, I logged into my Pinnacle account. I was delighted to see I was ahead something like $11,800 on the day. The New York jeweler had gone 5-2, and made a quick 12 dimes. Talk about easy money. If only I continued what I was doing and the man broke even from this point forward until Sunday, I’d collect my share which was $1,000 — plus ten percent of the profit. Theoretically, I was up $2,180 which was my cut alone. And I hadn’t done a fucking thing.
Goddamn, this was sweet.
I was tempted to ask Falcone if he knew of any more New York jewelers.
The fall came quickly, far sooner than anyone could have expected.
Most sports bettors linger around the break-even point. A gambler who wins about half the bets is a sportsbook and bookie’s dream. It keeps the bettor continually interested in wagering, and all the while — the house takes it’s vig on the losses. In fact, it’s a myth that bookies want their bettors to lose all the time. If that happened, everyone would either quit or go broke. No. Bookies want bettors to break even. It’s the difference between shearing a sheep versus roasting lamb chops.
What happened with the purported New York jeweler the previous day was an aberration. He had rattled off a quick 12-grand in profit in a single day, achieved by picking a couple of huge underdogs that won. When you’re wagering $3,000 a game, all it takes is a couple of big dogs to come through, and you’re looking at a huge profit.
The next morning my phone rang at 7:30 am sharp.
“He’s got eight plays today,” Falcone said.
This was a Thursday. But unlike the day before, this time the “jeweler” suffered a miserable day. He lost back most of the $11,800 that had been won the day before. He was basically back to even after two days of action.
Things were about to get much worse. Friday was just as bad. The “jeweler dropped about $10,000 that day. By Sunday night, following a long weekend with multiple games and even a few doubleheaders, the jeweler was stuck nearly $25,000. But what made this most alarming was, his losses were plastered all over my offshore accounts — especially Pinnacle — which were all seriously in the red.
Late that Sunday afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Falcone.
“Can you talk for a few minutes? It’s important,” the frantic voice said. “Can you meet me at the usual place?”
I don’t believe in a sixth sense. But my sixth sense told me something was wrong. Very wrong, indeed.
When I walked into the coffee shop, my very worse fears were confirmed.
Peter Falcone appeared. This was a changed man. He looked like no other time I’d ever seen him. Instead of the well-dressed, confident, clean shaven, smiling gentleman I was accustomed to seeing the past few months, this was someone that looked like a derelict.
Falcone was dressed in a soiled white t-shirt. He was sweating. Even though we were indoors, he wore a pair of silver Ray Ban sunglasses, the kind wth the mirrored shades. He looked like a total mess. The closest description I can give was, he looked like Stu Ungar during the terrible period when he was plagued by his worst troubles.
“I’ve been betting all the jeweler’s plays,” Falcone said. “I’m busted. I’m completely broke.”
I knew that Falcone had a gambling leak. He was certainly capable of laying every dime in his pocket on a single ball game if he thought it was the right side. Yu can get away with recklessness, so long as there’s a steady source of income and more funds are forthcoming. This was not the case with Falcone.
“Can I borrow $1,000?” he asked.
I gave it to him on the spot. No questions asked.
Seeing Falcone as such a mess was a jolt.
I began fearing the worst.
If the New York jeweler ended up losing 20 or 30 dimes, was I going to get my money? What if the jeweler sent the money to Falcone? Might he blow it at the sportsbooks before it reached my hands? It didn’t even occur to me there might not be an actual New York jeweler.
By the way, just to be clear. At the time, I kept around $30,000 to $40,000 in cash as my liquid bankroll. If that was gone, I’d be completely wiped out. People ask me why I get emotional when watching ball games. It’s genuinely because a win or a loss means/meant the difference between going out to dinner at a nice restaurant or eating fucking Hamburger Helper. That’s not a joke. It’s for real.
My worst fears were realized on Monday morning. Already stuck about $25,000, the phone rang.
“He wants to play the horses today. Can you get down on horses?” Falcone asked.
“Yeah. he’s fed up with baseball and wants to try something else. Can you get down on horses?”
“We have to let him ride this out and get it back. You can’t cut him off now. That would be disrespectful to him.”
Oh shit. What have I gotten myself into?
Suddenly, I realized that I was stuck in a no-win situation. If I cut the jeweler off now, and demanded that he pay me my $25,000 — I might risk alienating him forever since I would be throwing down the gauntlet on what might be a relatively small figure (for him). On the other hand, if I let him continue to play, and he lost even more, and then he didn’t come up with the stew by the end of the week, this was going to be a Caligula-sized fuck of the ages.
“No horses. I’m not getting into that,” I said.
“What about baseball parlays?” Falcone said.
Oh my God.
This was the sure sign of a loser. Any joker who bets parlays is a fucking idiot. I have zero respect for parlay bettors. They should all have to wear some kind of designation, like a giant “S” on their foreheads for SUCKER. I repeat — anyone who bets (uncorrelated) parlays should be kicked in the groin and laughed at. Parlay bettors deserve ZERO respect.
My outrage directed towards betting parlays shocked Falcone. He took personal umbrage.
“What do you mean you don’t bet parlays?” he asked. “These aren’t your plays. They’re his plays. Why do you care? Let him do what he wants.”
Falcone was pissed as all fuck. But at this point with the numbers getting dangerous, I didn’t care.
In retrospect, the only way for “the New York jeweler” to get out of the hole was to bet longshots. Horses going off at 10-1. Or three-team parlays. You simply can’t make up 25-grand in a single day, so this was a desperate bettor’s Hail Mary.
We’d be betting straight wagers and totals and that was it. No horses. And no fucking parlays. Talk about a double shit sandwich.
On what was to be the final day of the betting week, Falcone fired another 7 or 8 plays — making desperate wagers (like betting heavy underdogs). Unfortunately, the losses continued to stack up. By the week’s close of business on Monday, the “jeweler” had lost the grand sum of $36,000 and change. I’d be responsible for paying the entirety of the debt — in cash — just a few days later, since my so-called “settlement figure” was essentially obliterated.
The excuse was already loaded in the chamber ready to fire.
My phone rang again the following morning, just like an alarm clock.
“The jeweler sure had a bad week,” Falcone said stating the obvious. “But he told me he’s sending out the money today. He’s said he’s got some business over in Antwerp, but he’s wiring the money to me in Malibu. So, it’s on the way. Thing is, I have to go get it there so it will take a few days.”
I had no idea what to believe anymore. But trouble with being conned is — the only escape from the mess is actually believing the lie and hoping it’s actually true. Throwing down the gauntlet and saying — FUCK YOU! THERE’S NO JEWELER! YOU’RE A FRAUD! I WANT MY $36,000! That’s financial suicide. Hence, con men enjoy what is an extraordinary advantage of the only “out” being the unwavering trust of the victim.
Still, I feared the worst. I made a series of frantic phone calls to some other sports bettors here in Las Vegas. I asked for their advice. Unanimously, they all agreed that I had to stop accepting wagers immediately until the good faith of a payment was made.
And so, that’s what I did. I told Falcone, there would be no more wagering until the $36,000 figure was settled.
In what I can only describe as a masterful control of emotion and extraordinary focus, Falcone accepted this and then calmly assured me the 36-grand would be in my hands in just a matter of days.
I didn’t trust him. But, I had to trust him. What other choice did I have?
It was Friday.
A busy day.
This was “payday.” I anticipated the sum of $36,000 in my hands a few hours later. Once received, that cash would be transported to my contacts who were texting me with legitimate concerns about the highest loss figure I’d ever run up. I’d run up $15,000 losses in a week on my own before. But nothing of this magnitude.
“You’ll get your money in a few days,” I assured them.
At 2 pm, my cell phone rang.
The incoming phone ID flashed “PETER FALCONE.”
For me, this was essentially a $36,000 phone call — maybe even a $38,000 phone call when considering my service fee was a grand, plus Falcone owing me another grand.
If ever there was an incoming call not to be missed, it was this one.
“This is Nolan,” I snapped.
“I’m going to be coming by in about five minutes,” Falcone said. “I’ve got the money.”
What a huge sigh of relief those comforting words were. Even though I stood relatively little to gain ($1,000) from this mess, I felt as though I was “winning $36,000.” Plus — meeting this financial obligation also demonstrated this was legitimate and the source could be trusted from this point forward.
“I’ll give you a call when I get there.” Click.
About five minutes later, my cell rang again.
This is great. I’m going to get my money. All is right with the world.
“Hello, this is Nolan.”
“Hello, this is Nolan.”
Silence, but some sound of ambient noise and perhaps static.
“Hello, this is Nolan — can you hear me?”
Phone indicates call was dropped.
Fair enough. Anyone who uses the AT&T plan gets this bullshit all the time. I waited 30 seconds.
Cell phone rings again.
“Hello, this is Nolan.”
What the fuck was going on?
I closed the phone call and texted Falcone. Message sent. No response.
With each passing minute, my heart sank a little deeper.
Additional texts went unanswered.
By 8 pm that night, I was frantic. No more incoming phone calls. Messages left unanswered. Texts ignored.
I was fucked. I tried to eat trout almondine for dinner that night, but threw it up in the bathroom.
The following day, more phone calls were made. More texts were sent. No response.
I eventually managed to reach Betsy in Malibu. Talk about a fucking lifeline. She then made a stunning revelation.
“I have no idea where Peter is,” Betsy said. “But he owes me a lot of money.”
Hearing this news, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
A few days later, Betsy and I met in Las Vegas and I finally learned the frightening truth about Peter Falcone. Originally from New York, he had conned his way through life, running one scam after another. He’d even served time in prison. Falcone’s methods were so dubious, he even screwed his parents out of their savings. He even skipped bail once and the family lost all equity in their home.
This guy wasn’t a snake. He was a fucking dragon.
I couldn’t believe Betsy would get involved with a character like this. And so I had to ask her. Why would she not only subject herself to such a huge risk but also ever want to be with such an awful person? Her explanation will not be revealed here, as I’m not going to get into Betsy’s private life any more than I have to. She’s not the perpetrator. Peter Falcone is.
But what about the new Jaguar? Had Betsy bought that fancy car for him? I saw it with my own eyes.
Sure enough, Betsy told me that Falcone was apparently pulling a scam on someone in Santa Monica. Falcone asked to borrow the victim’s Jaguar and was now driving it all over Las Vegas. The owner of the car was pissed but had not yet reported it to the police. So, that explained the bit about the new Jaguar Falcone was driving.
I departed my meeting with Betsy poorer but wiser. Over the next few days, I replayed conversations and scenes in my head. Flashbacks of our previous dinners and meetings all made it so clear now. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. What I finally came to see — far too late — was the portrait of a psychopath. A man with absolutely no conscious whatsoever. A man who gets off on the thrill of the con.
It took me six months. But all of my offshore betting accounts were eventually paid. When I ponder the labor I had to perform over that duration to settle up debts and keep my good name intact, it’s nauseating. But there’s never regret with doing the right thing.
Oddly enough, when bits and pieces of this story leaked out to various bookies and agents all over Las Vegas, I had more offers than ever for my business. I’m not sure if this was a good character thing, or targeting a customer that was so stupid he’d fall for such a scam — or both. I also heard from a few of his other victims I even had a phone call from someone who wanted to go after Falcone.
I wish I could say it’s over now. But it’s not.
Falcone went on to scam more victims. He even pulled off successful cons against some well-known poker players. Here’s an interesting link at POKER FRAUD ALERT which reveals more about Peter Falcone, his aliases, and his methods.
It’s a different version of the same old story.
If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
The lessons are plentiful here. And obvious.
There’s also a postscript. Amazingly, I would hear from Peter Falcone one last time.
Three years later, I logged on to my emails and opened a note from a sender I didn’t recognize.
I know you must hate me and think the worst of me. I feel terrible for what I did to you. I have had a lot of time to think since then and I realize how bad it was to do that to a friend.
I am planning to pay you back. I promise. I will make payments to you. There are some things I am working on right now and if I can get it settled I want to do right by you.
I know this is a strange letter and you are surprised to get it. I will let you know when I can get you money for what I owe.
How much was the figure again?
Against my better judgment I replied to the e-mail. I told Falcone that eventually these crimes would catch up to him, that he’d double-cross the wrong person and end up paying the ultimate price. He couldn’t possibly keep on doing his scams without one of his victims going ballistic and going after him. It was just a matter of time before the odds caught up with him.
I also conveyed to Falcone that it was shameful that his “talents” were not funneled into something more positive. He clearly had brains and talent. Regretfully, he was using his natural abilities to hurt others (and himself) rather than do something he could be proud of.
That was my final contact with Falcone.
Last summer in 2012, Peter Falcone was arrested in Los Angeles.
This time, the charges against him were serious. His bail was reported to be more than $400,000.
But slime is difficult to hold onto. It slips through the hands. It manages to escape confinement. Somehow Falcone either beat the rap or outlasted a minor sentence. I’m told he’s free and is now out there again. Somewhere.
Indeed, he’s out there. Wandering around. Probably hanging out inside sportsbooks. At casinos. Inside fancy restaurants. Hunting for his next victim.
Peter Falcone is out there. Watching. Waiting. Lurking. Preparing to pull off a new con.
Las Vegas is a playground full of fools. And Peter Falcone is holding the ball.