- January 28, 2023
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The Perfect Scam
The Perfect Scam
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In part 2, Jill Alper has already made a $10,000 investment in Dr. Dan’s medical spa business when her friend Holly Saunders learns that he is a con man with a lengthy criminal record. Determined to stop him from targeting his next victim, the friends team up with the FBI to lay a trap for Dr. Dan, culminating with a dramatic sting operation at a restaurant.
[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.
[00:00:03] Jill Alper: I decided that I was going to go to the FBI.
[00:00:07] Holly Saunders: And so at this point, Dr. Dan had no clue that we had discovered who he really and truly is or was.
[00:00:18] Jill Alper: It’s nerve-wracking. I mean when, when you have to lie to a con artist for three weeks to make sure he is going to arrive here and everybody’s here working undercover, it is, it’s, it is, you have, your heart’s beating fast, you, you feel like this is it. If he gets, if he, if he, you know, if he leaves or doesn’t show up, then all this is a waste. It had to work.
[00:00:49] Bob: When we left friends Jill Alper and Holly Saunders in Part 1, they had just discovered that the charming man they’d gone into business with, the man who said he sold horses, was a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, who spoke several languages, was an accomplished piano player, a fine art buyer, while he also had a deep dark past as a criminal. Holly had just googled Dr. Dan McCann who was selling franchise opportunities in the fat freezing business and found decades worth of news stories about financial fraud he’d committed most written by Stephanie Barry, a reporter in Massachusetts. Holly emailed this new research to Jill, but it was too late. She had just sent $10,000 to Dr. Dan thinking she was buying one of his fat freezing machines.
[00:01:38] Jill Alpers: And she sent me that while I was at a friend’s house, and I, when I saw the article, I mean just I read it like this has been going on since the 1980s. I mean he’s taken money from lawyers. He was like a, stole money from an escrow account trying to do land deals. He lived in a hotel in New York, never paid a bill. You know, stole from this woman. I mean it was one thing after another. I got so sick, I, I just, I couldn’t believe that I had given this, and it was the day be–, I mean I’d just wired this guy the money. I just, it just, I was devastated. So I ended up going home, I just, I was just crying. I’m like, how can this happen to me? I mean smart, businesswoman, street smart, I just, I shut down. And I did not, I wasn’t even answering my phone. And Holly kept calling me and I just, I was so embarrassed.
[00:02:39] Bob: The good news is that Holly found those news stories in the nick of time before she had sent any money to Dr. Dan. This is not the first time that Stephanie Barry’s reporting got in the way of a Dr. Dan scam. Plenty of other would be victims have reached out to the reporter through the years.
[00:02:59] Stephanie Barry: So think things really began ramping up maybe around 2016, because I recall a man emailed me and said, "This Dana McCann…" And mind you, he would do odd little things with his name. So he would be Dana McCann with one "n." He would be Dan McCann with two "n"s like he would just play with his name, you know, take our a consonant here or there. So when people googled him, he would say, "Oh no, no. That’s somebody else. That’s not me." So probably in 2016, 2017, I got a couple of reach outs from Union City, New Jersey, specifically from this one man who said, "Dana McCann wants to hire me," and I forget what the business venture was, "but I have to invest $50,000," he says, and he said, "What do you think about this?" And I said, "Well, I can’t tell you what to do, but my advice would be run as fast as you can in the other direction." Then, he ended up down South kind of straddling the horse farm/romance scam world on one side, and then continuing to draw people in on the cool sculpting thing at the same time while living down South. And that’s how he encountered Jill and Holly.
[00:04:22] Bob: You must have been a nemesis to him.
[00:04:24] Stephanie Barry: I think so, and I probably was the nemesis to him particularly after 2010. And one woman told me, "Well he told me you were an FBI agent’s sister." And I said, "Well why did you believe that?" And they just really didn’t have an answer. Over the years I wondered whether I might get letters from him, or something, but I would think I’m not his favorite person in the world.
[00:04:54] Bob: Not his favorite person because when prospective victims would find Stephanie Barry’s stories and reach out to her, they’d often walk away from Dr. Dan’s business opportunities. But Holly and Jill, well they turn out to be Dr. Dan’s real nemesis because they don’t just walk away. As they read through all these stories about all these victims, well that makes this pair of friends angrier and angrier, and they decide they have to do something. When Holly finally drives over to Jill’s house, remember she’s not answering calls or texts, she finds her friend despondent, but also determined. Determined to stop Dr. Dan.
[00:05:37] Jill Alper: She finally came over the next day and she’s like, ‘What the heck is going on?" I was just, I was beside myself. But I decided that I was going to go to the FBI. And so I looked them up, and you know, they get calls all day long about all this, about fraud. I mean it, it’s going on everywhere. So I walked up on Main Street, their office, and I walked in, and I found it, and I said, "I need to talk to someone." I tell him the whole story, ’cause I’m kind of hysterical like, "We’ve got to get this guy," and he looks at me like, "You know, I’m so sorry this happened. You’re probably never going to see your money. This happens all the time. You just have to say, move on." I said, "Let me give you his name. Look him up. Please help me. This is, I know other people are, are struggling with this, and I’m sure there’s a ton of people waiting for these machines." So he said, "I’ll get back to you."
[00:06:36] Bob: So Jill walks home thinking she might never hear from the FBI again. But…
[00:06:41] Jill Alper: Well within a couple of hours he calls me. He said, "Ms. Alper, this guy is wanted in New Jersey, New York," I mean he’s like, "This is, this is interesting." So we started talking and they were onboard, like we gotta, we gotta do something about this guy.
[00:07:03] Bob: Do something like… go undercover. You might remember from last episode that Holly and Jill initially were going to buy a fat freezing machine together, but they had decided it might be best to buy two machines and open their own franchises instead. While Jill had paid Dr. Dan for her machine, Holly was still a potential client. So with the police, they come up with a plan. They agree to help the police lay a trap for Dr. Dan. Holly will buy that second machine after all.
[00:07:38] Holly Saunders: And so at this point, Dr. Dan had no clue that we had discovered who he really and truly is or was, so I, you know, texted him and said, "Look, I’m interested. I’m ready. I’m, I’m going to do this, and I just need, you know, how much and I’ll, well, let’s just get started on my transaction." And so he jumped on it.
[00:08:06] Bob: So the pair of friends keep up the charade carefully following police instructions. Remember, in theory, Jill is still waiting for her machine. But it’s not easy, and it’s a little scary.
[00:08:18] Jill Alper: So both of us had to keep this whole thing going and text him, "Thank you, I can’t wait for the machine to show up." I mean I’m still playing that role like, oh, it’s on its way. I’m like, I had to just keep buttering him up and to, to make sure we kept…
[00:08:35] Bob: While you’re clenching your teeth with every text, right?
[00:08:37] Jill Alper: Oh, it, it was like my stomach hurt. I didn’t know if he was, you know, he’s a white collar. He, he doesn’t, he’s never hurt anybody. He’s just, this is his thing.
[00:08:49] Bob: The plan is to lure Dr. Dan to an in-person meeting so police can arrest him on the spot. For the actual sting, police tell Holly to invite Dr. Dan to come pick up the cash at a fast food restaurant in town. As the meeting approaches, Holly works hard to make sure Dr. Dan will show.
[00:09:08] Holly Saunders: And I said, "So are we meeting Tuesday? Does 11 still work for you? I have a couple of paintings you can look at." I kept trying to keep him, luring him, because I really thought he might figure it out, but nah. So he said, "Great for me."
[00:09:27] Bob: On the day of the sting, police are very careful to orchestrate every step. Holly will be inside the restaurant. Jill be hiding outside so she can watch the whole thing.
[00:09:40] Holly Saunders: I pulled in about maybe quarter till, and he, he told me, he called me, and he said, "Too early. Go park at the drugstore." I said, "Okay." Parked at the drugstore, I looked down to my right, there’s Jill, there’s my sister, my daughter’s sister, my mother-in-law, there’s another friend, another friend, everybody’s got hats on looking down at their phones, just waiting.
[00:10:06] Bob: And then it’s time.
[00:10:09] Holly Saunders: And so about 5 till, the policeman said, "Well come on over and come on in." And I said, "Okay." So I came in, and I was digging in my pocketbook, and he and I are in very close proximity to each other with those little tables, and he nods his head at me, and I nodded, and it was like, hello, and…
[00:10:33] Bob: Jill couldn’t believe how extensive the operation was.
[00:10:36] Jill Alpers: The police were amazing. There must have been 30 people. They wanted Holly to be inside with all the undercover cops. And I’m like, I gotta be there. So I was with my friend, and I was in his car kinda watching it from afar. And no one, I mean no one in Greenville knew about this. We had, we kept it very quiet.
[00:10:57] Bob: And so 11 a.m. comes and goes. No Dr. Dan. The minutes start to fly by. Where is he? Maybe he’s not showing up after all. Maybe he’s figured out it’s a trap. A cop quizzes Holly about what’s going on.
[00:11:12] Holly Saunders: He said, "Have you talked to him?" And I said, "Yeah, earlier, he’s coming." And he said, "Are you sure?" And I said, "Pretty sure." My phone rings. It’s Dr. Dan and he was hysterical. He said, "Holly, you’re not here!" And I said, "Are you over there near the hospital on…?" And he said, "What, yeah, well…" I said, "You’re not far. Just come on over, it’s okay, it’s close." And so "Okay, okay." Slam.
[00:11:41] Bob: Jill, who’s outside with her hat pulled down low has no idea what the holdup is.
[00:11:46] Bob: You’re sitting in the car, you’re waiting for him, your heart must be beating a thousand times a minute.
[00:11:51] Jill Alper: Yeah.
[00:11:52] Bob: Like what does that feel like?
[00:11:54] Jill Alper: Um, it’s, it’s, it’s nerve-wracking. I mean when, when you have to lie to a con artist for three weeks to make sure he is going to arrive here and everybody’s here working undercover, it is, it’s, it is, you have, your heart’s beating fast, you, you feel like this is it. If he gets, if he, if he, you know, if he leaves or doesn’t show up, then all this is a waste. It had to work.
[00:12:24] Bob: It had to work. The cops give Holly instructions one more time.
[00:12:29] Holly Saunders: He said, "When he comes, when he comes in, I want you to let me know the minute you see him turning in, let me know." And I said, "I will." And he said, "All right."
[00:12:42] Bob: And then within a few minutes she can hear the familiar sound of Dr. Dan’s car as it turns into the parking lot.
[00:12:49] Holly Saunders: So here he comes, Dr. Dan in that little beaten-up little car, zooming in there. And I said, "He’s here." And he said, "Are you sure?" I said, "I’m positive." And he got on his phone, and he went, "He’s on the premises, take him down." And, I mean they came out of the woodwork.
[00:13:09] Jill Alper: He literally pulled up in his car and grabbed his briefcase and before he could even walk, they had him. I mean there must have been 10 people. He got out of the car, and he was walking in, and that’s when they pulled up and they took him down. And it was just, it was, it was scary, but it was like, okay, he, he deserves to, you know, he deserves this because we have to stop him somehow. He has taken so much money from so many people.
[00:13:41] Bob: Holly doesn’t have much of advantage points on the arrest. But she does get to celebrate with Jill, maybe a little too much.
[00:13:49] Holly Saunders: Well I really didn’t see anything much because the, the undercover guy had intimidated, he, he said, "Do not, do not come out. Do not come out. Don’t let him see you," but at one point Jill comes in and she’s like, "We got him! We got him!"
[00:14:08] Jill Alper: And we’re just, we are hugging each other, ’cause we’re so glad this is over, and they got him, and we really won’t, we weren’t supposed to be seen, like we probably shouldn’t have been hugging like that, but anyway, we just, we were thrilled. When they took him down, I mean that was, it was such a sigh of relief and but, you know, I’m thinking, I want my money back. But the reality is like, no. We took him down, we probably, there’s so many people that are not going to have to go through what we went through because of him, but it was very nerve-wrack–, I was a nervous wreck. Absolutely.
[00:14:45] Holly Saunders: I had a lot of adrenaline that day. I mean I remember I was going to get a cup of coffee and my hands were shaking, and I thought, I can’t believe this. But I loved the fact that we were outsmarting that crook.
[00:15:03] Bob: Before police drive away with Dr. Dan, Holly and Jill have one final moment with him.
[00:15:10] Holly Saunders: I made eye contact with him while he’s sitting in the back of the cop car. He was in there. And it was Dr. Dan. So…
[00:15:21] Bob: Are you sure that he recognized you?
[00:15:23] Holly Saunders: Oh, yeah. Oh gosh, yeah.
[00:15:25] Bob: Did he, I mean did you get a sense from him like he was mad, like he felt betrayed, any of those? Did you get a read from him?
[00:15:32] Holly Saunders: No. I, I, the read I got from him was he’s, he’s just flat. He was just flat. He was very, it wasn’t like blind fury. It wasn’t, he, of course, didn’t smile. There was no emotion, none.
[00:15:49] Bob: Hmm.
[00:15:51] Bob: After the arrest, as soon as Holly and Jill are permitted to talk about it, they reach out to Stephanie Barry, the reporter whose stories led them to uncover Dr. Dan’s dark secret. And Stephanie, well, she makes sure the crime gets the attention it needs.
[00:16:07] Stephanie Barry: They met with authorities, set up the sting, and then they contacted me after and said, "You will not believe this. We got this guy." And so I said, "Bravo!" And I’m not one, you know, it’s not really a reporter’s role to be a tattle-tale, if you will. It’s, you know, my stories kind of stand for themselves. But I find this guy to be so dangerous that when Holly and Jill reached out to me, that’s when I thought, I need to call my friend, the Fed, because this just, I, I, I could not in good conscience just sit by and watch this go on. You know I can write stories, yes, that has some value, but so I called my Fed, my Fed friend and said, "Do you believe this guy? He’s still doing this." So he started, so I’m writing stories and he’s building a case in the Southern District of New York.
[00:17:08] Bob: So Stephanie has yet another Dr. Dan story and the Feds have yet another case thanks to Jill and Holly.
[00:17:14] Bob: And when they called you, did you think these women are heroes.
[00:17:19] Stephanie Barry: Yes. I absolutely did. And I thought, thank goodness someone is willing to go on the record and say exactly what this man did to them. And thank goodness they have the guts to go to law enforcement so they could get him off the streets. So they’re unequivocally my heroes. So many of these people over the years who have contacted me, were so embarrassed and so humiliated that they wanted me to be a proxy for them, like "Can you call the police and tell them but I, I don’t want to talk." Jill and Holly were willing to talk to me at length, go on record, give me the law enforcement sources they had dealt with, you know, tell me about the whole sting. So their horror over this man eclipsed whatever embarrassment they had been feeling. So that was a real turning point. And you know…
[00:18:17] Bob: That makes sense. Yeah, we talk about that a lot here at The Perfect Scam. People have to be okay with coming forward or else this stuff just keeps going on.
[00:18:25] Stephanie Barry: Right, and that’s what happened for gosh, I’m trying to do the math now, 2010… for more than a decade I’d have people call me intermittently, but after this story featuring Jill and Holly was published, so he went to jail…
[00:18:43] Bob: In May 2020, McCann pleads guilty to fraud and is sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution to a series of victims. But there’s little hope Jill will ever see her money again. In fact, with all the money Dr. Dan had stolen through the years, no one seems to know where any of it is.
[00:19:05] Jill Alper: I talked to two different guys, but they, one of the guys who’s in charge of finding the money, he’s like, we have never found any of the money. We don’t know where it is. This is going back to, you know, the 1990s when he took millions of dollars from the law firm, from different doctors, I mean it, all that money, they cannot find it anywhere. So I, I don’t know, and it’s not like he doesn’t drive, he never drove a nice car. I mean he, he wore the same thing all the time. A lot of times it was that golf shirt with the horse emblem on it. It’s just very interesting where all that went to.
[00:19:42] Bob: We do know where Dana Dray McCann went, however. During COVID, he was let out of prison on probation. He was in his 70s by then, and ended up in Florida working for a car dealership where he was selling cars, getting the buyers to pay in cash, and then disappearing with the cash. He was arrested for that in May 2022 and transferred back to a federal prison in New York. Just another story for Stephanie and the collection of people she keeps in touch with who follow the saga of Dan McCann. Like Judge Ponsor who almost 20 years ago predicted there would be trouble when McCann got out of jail. Ponsor is retired now.
[00:20:25] Stephanie Barry: Yeah, and Judge Ponsor , I still will sometimes email him when something Dana McCann comes up. Oh my, we have like a little circle of, you know, there’s Judge Ponsor, there’s me, there’s a couple of the Feds who are retired, one who’s still in the game, and we’ll text or email, not altogether, but if something comes up, I’ll say, "Hey, do you believe this? I got another reach out from a victim or an intended victim of Dana McCann."
[00:20:56] Bob: You are all in a club together.
[00:20:59] Stephanie Barry: Hmm, yeah, we stay in touch, we stay in touch.
[00:21:01] Bob: It’s like a very exclusive club, isn’t it? It’s just, I mean, who else would understand, right?
[00:21:05] Stephanie Barry: Yeah, we stay in touch. So when something pops up, I’ll text or email, you know, various people, "Can you imagine?" And we all shake our heads, but not really.
[00:21:19] Bob: And who knows how long Dan McCann will be in custody or what might happen if and when he’s freed again. But that’s why it’s important to learn all you can about a prospective business partner.
[00:21:32] Bob: What is it that people who listen to this podcast should, should learn from all this?
[00:21:38] Stephanie Barry: If something seems too good to be true, it is. And I know that that’s very trite and not very profound, but trust your instincts.
[00:21:50] Bob: Stephanie also said that the internet, often cited as a tool for criminals, can also be a helpful tool for consumers who want to protect themselves. After all, it was the internet which led Jill and Holly to her stories.
[00:22:04] Stephanie Barry: Now people can google, and they can find out a whole lot about Dana Dray McCann, whether he’s Dan McCann with two "n"s or one "n," or Dana McCann with one "n" or two "n"s, I mean there’s just nowhere left of him to go, unless he goes into like a village where there’s no internet, I suppose.
[00:22:26] Bob: Or just substantially changes his identity in some dramatic way, and sometimes that happens. But, but I think that might be the other lesson I would like to bring people from this story, and I see this in a lot of other stories; months into whatever situation it is is when people decide to google, and then they find all these things. It sure would be good if they did that sooner.
[00:22:48] Stephanie Barry: I agree with you, and I think based on when he got out of jail most recently and ended up in Florida, it started happening a lot more quickly. So it wasn’t months or years, it was weeks after he was released from, from prison. Geez, I just met this guy on Friday. I, I don’t really think I buy it, but I googled him. People do it almost immediately these days, and that’s not a bad thing. I think the coverage, and I’m not slapping myself on the back per se, but the coverage has made it harder and harder and harder for him to scam people. And as much as I love being a journalist, I felt like writing about this guy has become something of a public service.
[00:23:40] Bob: For Jill, talking to The Perfect Scam was also a public service.
[00:23:45] Bob: What is it that you want people to know and what, what do you want people to learn from your story?
[00:23:50] Jill Alper: I… you know, it was really hard for me to want to do this podcast, you know, ’cause I’m, it’s embarrassing, but for me it was embarrassing like I let this happen, but now it’s like it doesn’t matter, you know, your education, what you do. If these, these guys are good, and they will, they will, they have a way of, you know, getting what they want, and you know you can do your homework, and sometimes it just happens. And, unfortunately, I mean I, there’s red flags, but really, I mean, I did, I did all I could to research him and towards the end I did see the red flags, and you know, where’s the machine, but it, it’s really important to ask those questions and never wire money unless, I mean that, the wire money is gone. Always have some kind of a receipt you know if you write a check or use credit or whatever, just there’s not right or wrong, it happens, and it’s one of the worst feelings to have someone take advantage of you. For sure.
[00:24:50] Bob: But I think it’s so important that you talk about it, because as you’ve explained, I mean you did so much homework, and he had, his cover story was so elaborate, so, you know…
[00:24:59] Jill Alper: Oh, he had…
[00:25:00] Bob: It happens, it can happen to anyone. That’s one of the themes of the podcast so I really thank you for sharing that.
[00:25:03] Jill Alper: It can happen to anyone. Absolutely.
[00:25:14] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP’s The Perfect Scam, I’m Bob Sullivan.
END OF TRANSCRIPT
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