ANCHORAGE - A man who allegedly conned an untold number of good Samaritans with his hard-luck tall tales was arrested this week, Anchorage police said.
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Wayne Winters Jr., 38, was charged with a felony of scheming to defraud.
He was arrested Friday at the Northway Mall after a man who recognized him from a television news report alerted a police officer.
Winters allegedly would go door to door telling people his wife was in the hospital, about to give birth, and that his truck had broken down.
He would ask for money, about $40, to pay for a tow truck, police said.
People all over Anchorage - police estimate there are hundreds - lent Winters what amounted to thousands of dollars over the past two years.
Most probably never reported the loss, said Anchorage police spokesman Paul Honeman.
Police said Winters managed to fool people in part because he was polite, articulate and well-dressed. He would quickly flash a driver's license and leave a business card, promising to repay his benefactors.
"I'm a nice guy," said Curtis Graham, one of Winters' victims. "He obviously had a pretty fine-tuned story."
The business cards he presented gave the name and phone number of another person, police said.
Al Nelms said he was leaving the downtown cemetery with his 85-year-old mother in January when Winters asked for a lift.
"If he looked homeless I wouldn't have given him a ride," Nelms said. "He didn't. He looked like a gentleman."
Winters didn't try to con Nelms for money, but managed to get his business card.
Nearly every day for the next four months, people would call Nelms asking when they could be repaid.
"It was a real pain," Nelms said. "To explain to people over and over again that you don't have their money."
According to Nelms, Winters duped all kinds of people, including a lawyer and the wife of a federal agent.
"You can't believe how many people called looking for him," Nelms said
Winters has an extensive list of theft and drug convictions dating back to the early 1990s, according to state court records.