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LDS tag doesn't fool store manager

AMERICAN FORK — In some places, being a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means having the door repeatedly slammed in your face.

But in a place like Utah County, the opposite is true — it opens doors.

That is probably why a man recently dressed up as an LDS missionary to allegedly con a computer salesman.

The man, a 25-year-old who later claimed to be a student at Brigham Young University, allegedly entered Denali Computers in American Fork last week wearing slacks and a white shirt with a tie and the unmistakable missionary name tag.

The owner of the store, James Lindsey, says the man claimed to be on an errand for an LDS bishop who needed a computer for a disabled member of his congregation who had recently been robbed.

Lindsey said another man, posing as a missionary companion, waited outside in a truck.

Lindsey says he told the man he couldn't donate the computer, but he would sell it to him at cost.

The man agreed and gave Lindsey a phone number for the bishop, who would pay for the computer. Lindsey says he called the number, and a man claiming to be the bishop said he would send his clerk later that day to make a payment.

Lindsey called the number for the bishop several times over the next few days asking for payment, until he realized he had been duped.

He says he then went to the home of the phony missionary and asked for payment, but the man ducked out the back and sped away.

Lindsey then left a message that if he didn't get paid for the computer, he would call the police.

On Saturday, the man returned to the store to pay for the computer. Lindsey says he locked the door once the man was inside, and said he wouldn't accept the $400 in cash until police arrived.

The man began crying, Lindsey said, claiming to be a BYU student preparing to serve a mission. The police ordered him to pay for the computer, issued a warning and let him go.

"Had this con-man not been dumber than me, he probably would have got away with it," Lindsey said.

On Tuesday, American Fork police realized Lindsey wasn't the only one who had been duped. The name the man had given them didn't match up at BYU, so they tracked him down and arrested him for investigation of theft by deception and giving false information to an officer.

He was booked into the Utah County Jail. No charges have been filed.

"It's unfortunate that people would use the (LDS) church to try to perpetrate a scam, but if you're a criminal, you'll do whatever it takes," Lindsey said. "There's a lot of trust in this community. I hope this will open other people's eyes."

Police officers in American Fork, Orem and Provo said this is the first time they have heard of a con man posing as a missionary.

But Lindsey says he has heard of others posing as missionaries to get free meals.

"The demographic here is a little bit more trusting than say, New York City, and unfortunately people prey on that," he said.


E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com