Man returns to town with new scams

February 21, 1992|By Roger Twigg

A 36-year-old Baltimore man -- who as a teen-ager conned and swindled his way around the world while buying $13,000 diamond rings and $70 pairs of shoes -- has resurfaced with a new scam, according to city police.

Michael Anthony Henson, whose last known address was in the 1400 block of Odessa Thomas Court, is being sought for a series of thefts he allegedly pulled off while posing as a sales tax auditor for the state comptroller's office, said Detective William A. Booker of the check and fraud unit.

Detective Booker said that the con man has used a number of aliases in the scams and that he was arrested in December using the name Michael Anthony Johnson.

XTC "I can say with almost certainty it is the same guy," Detective Booker said.

Mr. Henson was arrested December 30, 1991 and charged with stealing a $13,000 check and with possession of narcotics paraphernalia, police said.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Henson was posing as a tax auditor seeking to inspect the books and checking account of a tavern owner in the 1700 block of Ellsworth Street, police said.

But the female owner had heard of the scam and notified police, who took Mr. Henson into custody.

Mr. Henson was scheduled to stand trial last week, but he failed to appear.

A failure-to-appear warrant has been issued, police said.

Tavern owners, operators of gift shops, service station operators and other small-business people have been bilked by a man claiming to be a state sales tax auditor.

At least 17 businesses have been struck, police said. The con artist has netted himself $3,000 to $4,000, they said.

"Everyone was cooperative with him," Detective Booker said. "Everyone is scared to death of a tax audit."

Each victim told police the con man was "well-mannered and professional" and often spent 60 to 90 minutes going over their records and checkbooks while slugging down refreshments they provided.

At some point during each fake audit, the con man removed a page of checks. For some reason, the checks' disappearance was never noticed until they were cashed, police said.

In recent cases, which occurred after he failed to show up in court, Mr. Henson is accused of adding a new wrinkle to his scheme. He has been offering the business people an opportunity to avoid an audit the following year by allowing them to pay a $100 to $200 fee, Detective Booker said.

"He has a lot of savvy. No one seems to refuse him," the detective said.

The detective said police also were looking into some bank scams in the area that were comparable to ones pulled off by Mr. Henson in the 1970s.

Police said Mr. Henson began his career as a con artist by stealing checks and credit cards from his parents and flying off to the West Coast.

By the time he was 18, he had defrauded banks and stolen credit cards to enable him to buy fancy clothes and travel around the world "in the style of an Indian maharajah," an Orlando, Fla., police sergeant said at the time.

Police estimated he had spent $500,000 in his travels. Mr. Henson described the figure as "ridiculous" and said they couldn't have cost more than $250,000.

Many of the credit cards he used were stolen from people he had befriended.

He also obtained money by opening new bank accounts -- in one instance, he posed as chairman of the Class of 1963 at Poly.

After opening that account with a $10 deposit, he used one of the checks to obtain $400 worth of traveler's checks.

Mr. Henson's attorney at the time described him as "somewhat egocentric and narcissistic" and said he seemed to "have no desire to work for a living.

"He expected everything to be handed to him."

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