End of the Trail for a California Grifter?

Jeff Lang, two-time convicted felon, con man, grifter.

Jeff Lang, two-time convicted felon, con man, grifter.

The decade-long career of a northern California con man came to an end on Aug. 2, at least temporarily, when Jeffrey Lang pled no contest to three felony counts of grand theft and one felony count of identity theft in Sacramento County Superior Court. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, where’s he’s been jailed since last December.

Two women working with the Folsom Police Department brought Lang to justice. They are part of a larger group of seven women, most of whom met Lang through online dating services in 2015 and 2016, who allege they’ve been romanced and swindled out of thousands of dollars by the sweet-talking grifter. One member of the group, after reading about my own experience with Lang’s shady behavior on a 2013 Facebook post, contacted me in January to inform me Lang was in jail, and I’ve been following the case ever since.

The hero of the story, it can now be told, is a woman I’ve dubbed “Sacramento Victim No. 2” in previous articles. I’ve granted all of the women linked to Lang some degree of anonymity because their allegations against him—some of which he’s now admitted to—aren’t just of a financial nature, they’re deeply personal.

I got off lightly compared to most of Lang’s victims. I only got screwed out of several thousand dollars in a failed magazine start-up. I never had the pleasure of being intimate with the man.

Six of the seven women I’ve interviewed since learning of Lang’s arrest last January met him through internet dating services. Sacramento Victim No. 2 is the exception. She met Lang in the spring of 2016, at her running club, where he came highly recommended by the club’s president, a well known Sacramento advertising executive.

She liked Lang’s positive attitude and after several dates invited him to move into her home with her two teenage daughters. What she didn’t know was that Lang was carrying on a long-term relationship with a woman I’ve dubbed Sacramento Victim No. 1 and several other women at the same time. Lang was allegedly tapping all of them for money for an alleged cannabis business he was developing, as well as sleeping with most of them.

Victim No. 2 discovered something was amiss when a new credit card in the name of Victim No. 1 turned up in her mailbox in the fall of 2016. She recognized the name as that of a woman Lang claimed was his ex-girlfriend. Suspicions aroused, she contacted the woman, who like her lives in Folsom, 20 miles east of Sacramento. Realizing they’d been had, together they contacted the Folsom Police Department.

“I’ve asked myself, why was I put in this situation?” Victim No. 2 recently told me by telephone. “I believe I was put in this situation to stop Jeff Lang.”

The two women cooperated with a Folsom Police Department detective who ran a successful sting operation on Lang, who was promptly arrested and has remained behind bars ever since. They definitely stopped Lang, but not before he had bilked them out of tens of thousands of dollars which they may never see again.

The Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, Jeff Lang's home till March 2017.

The Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, Jeff Lang’s home till March 2018.

Both women attended the Aug. 2 sentencing hearing and Victim No. 2 brought her two daughters as well. The foursome read statements describing the financial and emotion harm Lang had done to them as the accused stood by in a cage, silently facing the judge. One daughter claims Lang even shed some tears.

“I think my daughters really got to him,” Victim No. 2 told me.

Lang was ordered by the court to pay $56,500 in restitution to Victim No. 2, an amount that includes her entire retirement savings, which he obtained by illegally accessing her bank accounts. She’s pleased with that decision, but no so happy that the judge granted Lang two days off his off of his two-and-a-half year sentence for every day he’s served so far. The reward for good behavior netted Lang 420 days off his sentence. He’s eligible for release, albeit under strict probation, next March.

“It was very disappointing, “ she said. “He won’t even have served a year-and-a-half.”

That may be subject to change. While most of the women in the group that originally contacted me have declined to press charges against Lang, an alleged Sonoma County victim who claims Lang stole more than $5000 in credit card checks from her is pressing her case. She says the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office has informed her it will prosecute Lang after Sacramento County releases him.

Whatever happens with jail time, Lang has lot of restitution to pay up. Victim No. 1’s restitution is still being calculated, but estimated to be near $50,000. He’s barely made a dent in the $160,000 he was ordered to pay in 2012 to the Humboldt County advertising executive whose business he destroyed. He will literally be paying for his crimes the rest of his life, assuming he can get back on his feet in the first place.

“I’m just glad it’s done,” said Victim No. 2. “We went to every court hearing for seven months, I’ve been taking off work and missing out on my family.”

In the long run, she’s satisfied with the verdict.

“I think he got the best we can do,” she said.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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19 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    According to the FBI, the average bank robber nets less than $10,000, is caught 25% of the time, and is sentenced to at least 10 years (regardless of whether they used a weapon or just a demand note).

    “It has been far safer to steal large sums with a pen than small sums with a gun” — Warren Buffett

     

     

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      White dude, white-collar crime, short prison term, institutionalized in a place where you can ride horses.  It’s not just white collar crime, either.  A Stanford student got six months in county jail for raping an unconscious fellow student—he was out after three months.  If you commit a crime, your best defense is that you’re not poor.  Your second-best defense is that you’re white.

      Who messes up more lives, and messes them up worse?  The guy who walks into a bank and hands a teller a note?  Or this speck of fly feces, Jeff Lang?

       

      • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

        I love it in Crime and Punishment when Raskolnikov wakes up, recalls murdering the pawnbroker, and says “So this is it. The punishment is beginning.” Most of the punishment takes place in his own head, his conscience. But what if you’re a sociopath and don’t have a conscience? How do you punish that man?

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          The frat bro from Stanford may or may not suffer remorse in the form of sympathy for his victim, but at least he’s going to suffer the consequences for the remainder of his life.  He’ll permanently be a registered sex offender.  Stanford told him to take a hike.  An Olympic hopeful, the US Swim Team told him to f*** off.  The life he imagined for himself didn’t last long—it shrieked and died like a Piccolo Pete.

          As for Lang, I imagine he feels sorry for himself, and nothing more.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      The statistics on white collar crime–especially low level crimes like Lang–are fairly scant. I’ve been trying to find out how much money is “stolen” in the economy in this manner, but can find no meaningful data so far.

  2. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    I’m glad to know those women found justice, at least to a degree.

    Sheesh, Lang is a dick.

    Maybe that’s not “positive and civilized,” but hey, I’m positive he’s a dick.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      I believe Lang has a pretty tough world ahead of him. He will have two and a half years probation … damn, I should have mentioned that in the story! It will be hard for him to fall back into his grifting ways without getting detected. If he gets a steady job, he’ll be paying restitution for the rest of this life.

    • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

      I should have mentioned that Lang will be on strict probation for two and a half years in Sacramento County. If he can land some sort of honest work, he’ll be paying off that restitution for the rest of his life. I think he has a pretty tough road ahead.

  3. Richard Christoph says:

    R.V.

    After damn near choking on my coffee on reading your dry and pithy  “I never had the pleasure of being intimate with the man,” I thoroughly enjoyed the conclusion of your series of justice done and wrongs made partially right. It is inconceivable to most of us how the Langs, Koenigs, and Madoffs of the world can behave so wickedly toward friends, lovers, and the elderly, and often pay so light a penalty. If there is an afterlife, I hope there is a special place for those who knowingly mistreat others.

    Thanks for the informative and illuminating accounts, and for persevering in pursuing this case.

     

  4. anon says:

    What ever happened to that con Koenig?  I’m sure that he probably never served hard time, or if so, probably not much.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Koenig is still in prison, serving his 42-year sentence.  He’ll probably serve just a fraction of that unless he dies in prison.  His partner-in-crime, Gary Armitage, was released from prison a year ago after serving about 2 years of a 10-year sentence.

      I know a guy who worked for Koenig who bailed out about 6-12 months before TSHTF.  He had some sense of what was going on and didn’t want to be there when it imploded.  He didn’t like to talk about it, and never claimed that he blew the whistle, so I don’t know that he did or didn’t.  I know he had to testify.

  5. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you for writing this chapter of the story.   It is not the final chapter, because this man is not going to change after a short time in the big house.   What a light sentence for someone who has stolen people’s financial security and retirement options. ( I’ve had money stolen from me a couple of times, and I see it has having had the hours I spent earning that money stolen too. )  I really appreciate the whole series you wrote about this criminal.  People like him  who are successful at this sort of crime are so good at what they do it’s breathtaking.   Even when you discovered the truth about him years ago and shared the information to people who would also be harmed by his dishonesty,  no one believed you.  He was that good at being really bad.   Again, thank you.

  6. Adrienne says:

    Breathtaking indeed , Joanne . And a cautionary tale for us all , I only hope that those of us who are vulnerable are able to listen and hear . The problem being , is that most of us want to believe that those around us are as honorable and caring as we believe ourselves to be .

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