They were racing pigs at the Los Angeles County Fair this past Saturday. At least that is what we understood was taking place on the day we had planned to attend with our friends Martha and Marcello . Martha and Lisa met while she worked in California and although they are young enough to be our children – we hit it off well and visited them this weekend.
Our plan was to meet up with them on Friday and drive to Long Beach for their famous “Lobster-Fest” and then on to the LA County Fair on Saturday. We got a little sidetracked and this is the story of how we did not see pigs run but actually ran with them.
How to begin? Because we had plans to top our weekend off with a trip with Martha and Marcello to Disneyland – we were interested in finding some cheap tickets to the park for Sunday. Lisa and I checked on ‘Craigslist’ and found some available but not enough of a discount to bother with. On Saturday morning as we were preparing to drive to LA, Lisa checked again and found a good deal being offered and we began calling the number. We did not get a response for a couple of hours but finally a text message informed Lisa that the tickets were still available and they would be willing to sell four of the five they had. The price was only $75 each which is about half the cost of a one-day hopper pass when purchased at the gate. Our text dialogue continued and we learned that they were in Long Beach and could meet up with us for an exchange. The woman texting us said she had won the tickets at a church raffle but would have to send her daughter to make the exchange since she was working.
It all sounded too good to be true and, well – hang on. We made plans to meet the daughter at a “Jack-In-The-Box” restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Long Beach. All of us were excited about this great deal and we made our way to our rendezvous point. On the way Lisa continued to text the woman and assured her we were “church going” adults who her daughter would be safe with. The mom sounded relieved.
We arrived at our meeting place and sat down for something to drink and waited for the sixteen year old to arrive. Not long after sitting down we saw her in the pink top and black shorts her mother said she would be wearing and we waved to her as she crossed the parking lot and entered the place. She came over to our table and had the four “E-tickets” for Disneyland with her. She explained that they did not expire until late December and that Disney would scan the bar codes of each for entry to the parks. We handed over three hundred in cash and told her to be careful with the money as we had promised her mom we would be sure she was safe.
I’m not sure at what point we all began to suspect something was a little sketchy about this transaction. But I do know the moment the girl stuck the money in her bra I started feeling a little uneasy. She left and we looked over the tickets which seemed at first glance completely legit and headed to our car and to the LA Fair. On the way I noticed that the confirmation numbers were all the same. RED FLAG! RED FLAG! But, being the trusting souls that we are – we thought maybe they were bought as a package deal which would explain the same numbers. My worries grew by the minute despite everyone’s attempt at trying to convince themselves they were real. Finally, I decided to call Disneyland and ask if each E-ticket should have a different bar code. “YES!” was the emphatic response of the Disney customer service person I spoke with. We were deflated, depressed, despondent, down-right dumbfounded and duped. Our day was ruined knowing we had just lost three hundred dollars. We did our best to shake the whole thing off – but it just wasn’t working. Finally I suggested we contact the Long Beach police. It was then that this story turns.
While I was explaining the scam to the police on the phone Lisa, Marcello, and Martha decided to try to contact the girl using one of their phones since they had a different area code and phone number. Perhaps the girl would get greedy and try to scam someone else and we could have the police meet us to have her arrested. Martha and the girl started texting and the girl said she did have five tickets left and we could have all five. Martha said we were a good distance away but they agreed to meet at a “Burger King” just a little ways from the original contact point we had made earlier. In the meantime the Long Beach policeman I was speaking with suggested we go to the police department and speak to an officer in person. Marcello drove as fast as possible to the station while Martha tried to stall the thief at the drop point. It was all starting to feel a little like we were in an episode of “CSI: Long Beach”.
We finally made it to the police station and spoke to an officer. After lecturing me about ‘Craigslist’ being the devils playground – he gave me another phone number to call and have them meet us where the girl was waiting. (I need to say here that we have purchased several items via ‘Craigslist’ in the past including baseball tickets and had never been scammed) We ran back to our car and I called the number and (again) explained our situation. The officer on the phone decided that we should go to a location across from the “Burger King” and wait there for an officer to arrive. He said we would have to be present to identify the girl as it could not be done over the phone. I gave him a description of her and we headed out.
I don’t know at what point adrenaline levels can be dangerous but I think we were all nearing that level as we sped down the PCH. Martha said her skin felt “clammy” and poor Marcello was perspiring in heart attack levels as he weaved his little Toyota through the Long Beach traffic. The girl was starting to question where we were as we were now almost fifty minutes past our first contact with her. We were afraid she would bolt before we got the police there.
Finally we arrived and drove past the Burger King to the designated spot to meet the police. Fortunately the greedy little thief was still there and we watched her pacing around the restaurant nervously. After what seemed an eternity we noticed two police cars arrive. One entered to the rear of the Burger King and the other from the front. Cornered – with nowhere to go – the little girl we were afraid would have the cash stolen from her was now in custody Justice was about to be served.
A short time later the dispatcher called me and said the police needed to talk to us and Marcello and I walked across the lot to show them the bogus tickets and give them the full story. The girl was sitting in the back of the squad car. What a beautiful sight. We gave them the tickets and told them the sordid story. One of the officers told us that it was almost impossible to get money back in these situations and that the girl had told them she was just the middle man in the deal and did not have the money. No big surprise there – but it still felt good seeing her in the back of that police car. The officer went on to say we had one of two choices. Either we could drop the whole thing and let her go or we could have her arrested. Hmm, what should we do?, “Arrest her!”
We were told to go back to our car and wait since they would need more information after they spoke to the girl. Soon we were called back to give our full statements and while we were doing that a stranger approached and excused himself for interrupting. He told the officers that he had spotted a ratty looking RV parked on a side street and that the person inside seemed to be watching this drama unfold with unusual interest. As we turned to see who he was talking about – we noticed the man walking up to the police car where the girl was being held. Not long after that – the man was laying across the hood of the patrol car – spread eagle. Enter the accomplice in this high drama. Gotcha!
After being asked to return to our car and wait so they could question these two further, we notice them wave for us to return after just a couple of minutes. One of the officers approached and said our money had been recovered and that the two thieves admitted it was ours. Victory! We had been scammed for three hundred dollars and three hours later had our money back and two thieves put away – we had scammed the scammers. I apologized to the officers for putting them through this but they told us they were glad to finally catch these two as they had been scamming people for some time. Wow! Not a bad day.
We were so happy we hugged and high-fived each other for ten minutes while the officers finished up some paper work. We followed one of the officers to a nearby station for him to photocopy the currency as evidence and hand it over to us. Marcello and I waited in the police station while Lisa and Martha waited in the car. Here we are at the Long Beach police station – again. What a way to spend a day.
But there would be more drama to come.
The officer finally handed over our money and after thanking them for their work – we walked to our car. On the way I counted the money and realized that sixty dollars was missing. We returned to the station door and knocked to get the officer’s attention. He returned and I told him we were short sixty. “You’re kidding?”, he said and paused and then told us he must have left some of the bills in the copier. I joked that we had been scammed by a couple of petty thieves and now by the Long Beach police – all in one day. Fortunately – the officer had a good sense of humor and retrieved the missing sixty bucks – and we were finally on our way.
What a day! Marcello and Martha are two of the sweetest people we have met in our travels and I doubt they will ever forget the day these two Kentucky rednecks came to town. I will be blogging more about those two and our visit with them this past weekend. The highlight of which was our day running with the ‘pigs’ in Long Beach.
But before anyone gets the wrong idea – the Long Beach police did an amazing job and I would never disrespectfully refer to them as “pigs”. In this drama playing the part of the pigs were two idiot petty thieves who thought they could pull one over on these Kentucky rednecks. In this pig race – the ‘hillbillys’ won.