South Florida papers refer to John Patrick Fravel (pictured) as a "Coral Springs man," while to upstate New York papers, he's a "Salina man." In fact, the real Fravel appears to be a modern version of the carpetbagger: According to police, he finds a mark, fleeces him, then leaves town one step ahead of detectives. Though that last part doesn't always work, judging by Fravel's reported 42 arrests. But Fravel seems to be keenly aware of how law enforcement agencies index their files according to names and birth dates, which is why he has plenty of both. Jailers don't know they have a wanted man in their midst.
After his latest alleged cross-country con scheme, Fravel was finally arrested last month near Syracuse. Florida is one among a dozen or so states that would like Fravel extradited so he can face charges in local courts.
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What distinguishes Fravel from the common con man is that he doesn't have a single modus operandi.
A 2002 article in the Post-Standard of Syracuse tells of how he allegedly bilked a Fort Lauderdale restaurant owner out of $1,000 -- a sum small enough that Fravel was not a high-priority target for investigation. In Alabama, he allegedly convinced women to use phony checks to buy gift certificates, cash them in, and give that cash to him. In South Carolina, police say he somehow convinced a bank that he was president of another branch, so he could be trusted with $10,000. In Kentucky, Fravel allegedly got a job at Federal Express long enough to get the I.D. badge and uniform he'd need to make pickups from jewelry stores. In Wisconsin, Fravel allegedly pretended to be actor Thomas Jane to win a woman's hand in marriage -- as well as her Audi. In New York, he allegedly bought a couple of ATVs with a bad check. That's also how he scored a $45,000 Lexus and at least four Jet-Skis.
Rather than the single "big score" that is the undoing of so many other of his ilk, Fravel allegedly commits lots of little cons. But perhaps his greatest trick was in 2003, when he was spared a prison sentence of ten-plus years by convincing the New York Supreme Court that his identity-theft conviction should be overturned. He was released and allegedly struck out on a new campaign of fraud.
Fravel was in Broward County as recently as February, when he's alleged to have committed $30,000 in credit card fraud. He was seen driving a new silver BMW. Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to issue the warrant need to allow for Fravel's extradition before the June 3 deadline.