BikePortland.org

Readers expose a bike touring con man named “Ian”


A photo of “Ian” on the Oregon Coast
taken by Barb Wade on May 16th.

Since our post yesterday about the generosity of strangers toward a man who claimed he was down on his luck, we have come to realize that “Ian” is a prolific con-man. We have received numerous comments and emails from people all over the west coast who have had run-ins with this man — and he tells a similar sob story to everyone he meets.

To quickly recap; Salem resident Chad Butler met “Ian” over the weekend. After “Ian” claimed his bike was busted up and his belongings had been stolen, Chad swung into action. He befriended “Ian” and rallied friends to raise a nice chunk of money to get him back on the road. Almost immediately after our story went up, someone notified us that they had run into this same man in 2010 and he told them a very similar story.

But that was just the start.

Below is just a sampling of the people who have been the subject of “Ian’s” scams over the years:

From Gary:

“This sounds all too familiar to me as well. I helped out a similar fella probably 9 or 10 years ago (same small stature same penchant for tale telling) claimed he had toured all over the country… I actually drove him to a shop in Salem from the side of I-5 where he had his wheel repaired and since he had no money I ponied up the ten or so bucks with the promise that he’d pay me back. Never saw him again until (I think) now…”

From Dave D:

“… as I read it I recalled back to when I was worked in a bike shop in Arcata Ca, in the mid 90’s. There was a guy who was touring down the coast he was from either Australia or Canada, I think he was going by Duncan and had run into some hard luck and need his bike fixed, he had no money and was looking for help. As I recall someone else at the shop remembered him from the last time he came through town needing help a few years prior [and] with that we showed him the door. I saw him around town for several weeks after that then he dispaired. Always wondered what had happened to him, that is until today when I saw him stairing at me for the picture on the website.”

From Pat:

“… About 9-10 years ago, I came across Ian on my ride home from work along Interstate Ave. [in Portland]. He was looking for a place to camp, and was freaked out by the homeless camp scene in downtown, so I offered my back yard, let him take a shower, and fed him a good meal. When he mentioned he had some aches, I offered Tylenol, and he poured a handful of tablets into his palm and swallowed them, risking liver damage. That was one tip-off, as he seemed to be seeking a buzz by any means. Another was when he tried to talk his way into sleeping inside, but I firmly said no. The next morning, I was late for work, because he was very reluctant to leave my property, and I wasn’t going to leave him there with an empty house. I gave him a helmet (he had none), and sent him on his way.”

From maxadders:

“Wow! I ran into this guy at Standish-Hickey in August 2010 in the middle of a tour to SF. The guy showed up with a can of Budweiser, a copy of USA Today (“rubbish” he called it) and said he’d been robbed in Eugene (bags stolen while he used a gas station restroom) and was going to high-tail it straight down 101 to the Australian embassy…”

From Matt:

“I was riding east on the Springwater Trail maybe a year or so ago, and just after I crossed 82nd, Ian stopped me for a few minutes and gave me a similar tale to some of those mentioned above, and asked me for some money (which I didn’t have)… he told me that he was beat up in the middle of the night while camping on his cross-country journey, near Mt Hood. He said they stole his trailer, money and ID.”

“Ian” as seen by Salem resident
Chad Butler on Sunday, May 27th.

From Daniel R. Miller:

“Well, just to add to the rather amazing list of people who’ve encountered this guy, I’m pretty sure I did too on my coastal bike tour in 2003 (being Australian and telling tallish tales), somewhere in the vicinity of Fort Bragg. It’s kinda weird. Yes, he’s an alcoholic scammer, but he also does seem to continuously bike all over the entire northwest quadrant of the U.S.”

From Gregg:

“I’ve crossed paths with this guy three times..first in Corvallis around 1995 when he came in the bike shop I worked at. Then a few years later n Tahoe I was doing a mtb race and he was there telling stories to anyone at would listen. Then once outside Seattle in 2000. He had just lost his wallet and passport and was waiting for a new one from the consulate. He gets around, that’s for sure…”

From Zippybike:

“I’ve seen this guy twice before also. Same story. First time I was doing a bike tour from Newport to Mendocino. He was just south of Eureka in September of 2003. Claimed his handle bar bag was stolen and was heading to SF to get his passport replaced. We ended up at the same campground that night.

I saw him again on a bike coast bike tour in 2005. Same story: lost handle bar bag and needing to get to the Aussie consulate some where. I met another rider on that trip who also had the same experience.

This guys is a scammer. It’s sad because he ends up giving cycle tourists a bad name.”

And one reader emailed us a recent “Ian” sighting he read about on the Crazy Guy on a Bike website. Turns out “Ian” was on the Oregon Coast as recently as May 16th:

“Just before stopping for the night we encountered Ian, a down on his luck, Austrailain bicyclist tourist. His BOB trailor had broken down and there was nothing we could do to help. We left him along side the rode where he was hoping some one with a truck might stop to give him a ride.”

Given that we heard all these accounts in less than 24 hours, it’s pretty clear that “Ian” has likely duped dozens if not hundreds of people over the years. It’s also worth noting that, while he’s not always a model citizen, “Ian” doesn’t seem to be out to hurt or steal from anyone. He actually seems like a fairly personable guy (which is an essential trait for a con man).

This story also doesn’t discount the admirable generosity many folks have displayed toward a stranger — and fellow rider — in need.

Reader Jake Rosenfeld, who gave $100 to “Ian” after hearing about him through Chad Butler, put it this way:

“As I read the article I was surprised that I didn’t feel more dismay about the loss of the $100 dollars that I donated… It was help that was asked for and help that I gave. In the grand scheme of things I’ve been done far worse by better people. This won’t affect one bit the help I choose to give in the future.”

And Chad Butler says that, “In the end, I think I’d rather get slightly burned for whatever generosity I’m willing to lend than to never open up to strangers seemingly in need.”

One of the many pleasures of bike touring is all the interesting people you meet. “Ian” is certainly interesting; it’s just too bad he’s not honest.

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