A transient with 3 cents in his pocket took a Los Angeles cabbie for a $204 ride and wound up some place he probably never intended: jail.
Mike Grogan, a 38-year-old veteran cabdriver of 14 years, said he had "dollar signs in my eyes" Monday morning when he picked up a nicely dressed, elderly man at a gas station in Glendale. The man, later identified as 63-year-old George Otis Nelson Jr., said he wanted a ride to what he said was his bank in Anaheim to cash an $1,800 check.
But the Anaheim bank declined to cash the check, so Nelson asked Grogan to drive him to a Costa Mesa bank branch. When the second bank also balked, Grogan said, he demanded a look at the check.
"The guy had told me his name was George Nelson," Grogan said. "So, when I saw the check was written out to some guy with a Spanish surname, that's when I said to myself, 'Uh-oh, I'm going to eat this one.' "
'I Had Gone This Far'
But, Grogan explained, "I've had stranger things happen--I've taken fares that would have me drive them around and around and I'd start thinking I was never going to get paid. But then I would. So I had gone this far with the guy, I figured I might as well see where it leads."
It led to another try in Anaheim and then to a nearby truck stop where the obliging cabbie bought the man the breakfast special and a pack of cigarettes. With the meter still running, Nelson led Grogan to a post office in Pasadena, where Nelson said he had a government check waiting for him, and then to a Glendale antique shop, where Nelson said he had $20,000 in gems being polished. Still nothing, Grogan said.
After five hours and nearly 100 miles, the trip ended at Glendale Federal Savings & Loan branch on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, where Nelson disappeared into the bathroom with the check.
"I knew something was funny when he was in there about 10 minutes and I heard the toilet flush 20 to 30 times," Grogan said.
Glendale police were called to the scene, where they arrested Nelson, described by police as a transient, on suspicion of petty theft. After a few hours in Glendale City Jail, he was released on his own recognizance, even though he had no address.
Informed of this, Grogan said: "I know I'll never see any of my money."