Street shakedown

Local con artist preys on the elderly


A con artist who goes by the name of Tony is stalking the streets of Riverdale preying mostly on older men — and the scammer's activities appear to be perfectly legal.

On the afternoon of July 18, he approached at least two men on Johnson Avenue, pretended to recognize them and asked them for money. One of the victims gave Tony $8, although a shop owner says he has observed the con artist talk larger sums out of Riverdalians.

A resident and the shop owner, John McKeon, say they have observed Tony perform his act for at least 10 years, but that authorities have never to their knowledge intervened.

Last Friday, Tony apparently used his act on Rene Rodriguez, 73, at the corner of Johnson Avenue and West 230th Street.

Mr. Rodriguez says Tony struck up a conversation with him and asked the victim who his “favorite black person” was. When Mr. Rodriguez named an acquaintance, Tony reportedly replied, “That’s my mother!”

After Tony said he was out of gas and asked for money, Mr. Rodriguez, of West 236th Street, gave him several dollars.

When a reporter who observed the exchange approached the duo, Tony said he was not a con artist and quickly walked away.

Mr. Rodriguez was initially in disbelief when he heard that others in the neighborhood have accused Tony of being a con artist.

“I gave it to him on account that I know his mother for more than 30 years,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “He knows me, because I used to visit his mother in Brooklyn.”

After another pedestrian, Saul Markowicz, joined the exchange and explained that Tony has previously accosted him, too, Mr. Rodriguez promised to call his acquaintance on Monday and ask her if Tony is her son. On that day, Mr. Rodriguez reported that the woman had denied Tony was her child.

Moments before Tony approached Mr. Rodriguez, the scammer asked another man on Johnson Avenue for money.

Elliott Schonfeld, 57, said Tony struck up a conversation, asked him “who his favorite black co-worker” was and then claimed to be that person’s brother. Mr. Schonfeld then said he did not have any money and Tony left.

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