Thursday, March 28, 2013


Last November, on a cold night in Times Square, a New York cop named Lawrence DiPrimo bought boots for a barefoot beggar named Jeffrey Hillman. The story went viral -- although a few days later The New York Times found Hillman and reported that he was barefoot again:
"Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money," Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. "I could lose my life."
But now the New York Post has busted Hillman's story wide open:
What a heel!

The barefoot beggar who made headlines when a kindly cop gave him a pair of boots has an apartment and a preacher paying his bills -- but he still pretends to be homeless and hides his shoes in a garbage bag, The Post has learned.

Jeffrey Hillman was spotted at 9:20 p.m. Sunday counting a huge wad of bills with the dexterity of a bank teller while riding a No. 2 train from Times Square to his home in The Bronx.

Wetting his thumb and glancing warily at his few fellow passengers, Hillman, 54, deftly counted out a stack of bills, placed it on the seat and started counting another as a Post reporter shot video....

The cash appeared to be mostly singles -- but still added up to several hundred dollars, judging from the size of the pile.
OK, let's stop there.

We're told that the Post reporter shot video of Hillman counting multiple stacks, but we only see him counting one in the video at the link (which I can't seem to embed). We're told that the stack is "mostly singles" but looks like "several hundred dollars." Here's a still from the video. Does this like "several hundred dollars" in "mostly singles"?

Is this guy scamming people? Sure, I guess -- and what a huge surprise that is! A beggar in New York City actually padded his resume of misery! Wow, the next thing you're going to tell me is that some of the beggars I've seen here in New York since the '70s who claimed to be Vietnam veterans didn't actually serve!

The preacher who helps Hillman out seems to agree with the Post's characterization of this as a "lucrative scam":
And, despite his lucrative scam, he insisted he wasn’t doing anything wrong....

But the Rev. John Graf of Bedminster, who pays Hillman’s utility bills and buys him phone cards, said it's wrong to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

"I don't want him conning me," said Graf, who has known Hillman since they were in fourth grade. "He promised me that he wouldn't do that."

Graf admitted his buddy has a history of working the streets.

"He's done it 10-plus years. He can make 1,000 bucks a day" even though "he's got 30 pairs of shoes at home," he said.
Really -- a thousand bucks a day? I rather doubt that. If I could make a thousand bucks a day, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting in freaking Times Square in the winter in bare feet.

This guy may be conning people with a sob story, but he still has a screwed-up life. If, in fact, he makes princely sums at this -- and I'm unconvinced -- anybody see any hints here of where the money might conceivably be going? Here, I'll use boldface to give you a big, fat hint:
Hillman ... has rap sheets in New York and Pennsylvania that stretch back to the early 1980s.

He was most recently busted in New York City in 2008 for possession of a controlled substance.

He had a similar drug bust in 2003 and a number of charges in 2002 for harassment, menacing, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, possession of stolen property and resisting arrest.

In 1998, he was pinched for public lewdness after allegedly masturbating in front of a crowd in Hamilton Heights.
You know who masturbates in public? People who have serious psychological problems. You know what people like that do when they don't have good jobs with excellent health insurance? They self-medicate. I don't know if that's Hillman's story, but it's a hell of a lot more plausible narrative than the Post's suggestion that this guy is living the glamorous life while spending large portions of his day begging with no shoes on.

Post op-ed columnist Michael Walsh spins this into a Grand Unified Theory of national corruption:
But then, Hillman’s just a piker when it comes to the rising culture of sham dependency that is rapidly turning this country from a nation of self-reliant citizens to shuffling pseudo-mendicants and conniving criminals who have one hand extended to collect government largesse while the other is busily picking your pocket.
The usual right-wing whines follow: increased disability claims, Medicare fraud (which, apparently, didn't exist before January 20, 2009), and of course Obamacare.

But you know who actually isn't "busily picking your pocket"? Jeffrey Hillman. He's a beggar -- you don't have to give to him. That preacher doesn't have to give to him. The cop didn't have to give him shoes. His donors are free citizens making free choices. I thought the right approved of that.


Victor said...

The only difference between FUX Noise and the NY Postule, is that after you're done with FUX, you don't have to wash that icky cheap black ink off of your fingers.

Of course, you can't wrap a dead fish in FUX - so the Postule does have THAT over it.

Just remember - wrapping a poor dead fish in the Postule, is an insult to the intelligence of the poor dead fish.

Dark Avenger said...

"The Adventure of the Man with the Twisted Lip" by Conan Doyle covered this territory more than 100 years ago.

Yes, begging can make a few people some 'big' money, but it usually sustains a lifestyle nobody would want to endure at 2 or even 3X the income that these 'lucky duckies' get in a week's time.

aimai said...

NPR just let Ira Glass do a similar story about people using lawyers to get disability. Listening to the story you got the sense that the youn gwoman reporting it just had zero idea of what the wrods she was using meant. For example she told us that the lawyer who represents disability applicants was "unopposed" because the government "doesn't pay people to fight the claims." This is incorrect. She heard that people go to court and a "Judge" hears their case but she didn't understand that the judge was the government--his function was to apply the law to the individual case before him. If people had to pay a disability lawyer to represent them it wasn't because the individual was scamming the system and the system wasn't responding. Its because it was a bureaucratic system in which individual judges and clerks had basically full rights to determine the applicants fate with very little pushback or rebuttal.

Maybe that seems a bit OT for this post but the quotes from the article about how this guy is "supported" by his friend and masturbated in public made me think of it. If the friend is paying his bills its because the guy is not competent, in some way, to function in regular society. Its not different from having a social worker pay your bills--its not evidence of a scam.

The truth is a lot of people are disabled and there is relatively little work for people in general.

Roger said...

The law, in its majestic equality, provides the rich and poor alike can make 1,000 bucks a day.