Scam artist hitting pet stores moves to hardware stores

PORTLAND, Ore. -- He's a scam artist who can give an Oscar-worthy performance to get businesses to fork over money.

At first, it was believed he targeted just pet stores with elaborate sob stories about his dog. Now, he's hitting other types of stores.

All told, the man who goes by "Mike" has hit a string of stores from Hillsboro to Salem over just a few months.

Christine Mallar at Green Dog Pet Supply on Northeast Fremont Street was scammed out of $63 after falling for the man's sob story about a sick dog. Mallar said in an interview on Sunday that she was so sure he had hit other stores in the area.

Little did Mallar know he'd already been active in her neighborhood. He apparently hit Beaumont Hardware, down the street.

Steve Singleton, assistant manager of the hardware store, said Wednesday he was immediately disarmed by the man's dramatic story.

"The first thing he said was that, 'I've got this bottle of Roundup concentrate, and it's defective and it killed every bit of landscaping on my dead son's memorial and my granddaughter is in tears,'" Singleton said.

The scam artist then explained that he'd had the Roundup analyzed at a lab and the lab said it was 100 times stronger than it should have been.

The man claimed the agricultural company, Monsanto, sold a bad batch and workers told him to come back to the hardware store for help.

After the man left the store with $55, Singleton talked with another employee and realized they'd been had -- twice.

"We realized that he'd actually picked me out because I hadn't dealt with him before," Singleton said.

Police said that because the amounts are low - less than $100 each time - the man's likely only accused of misdemeanor theft.

But under Oregon law, prosecutors could add up the total amount of money scammed and, if it's over $1,000, they could file felony theft charges.