University of Minnesota's Campus Con Man

Drinking buddies and ex-girlfriends were surprised to discover that the U of M student was 39 years old

Two days after Christmas, Sergei Dmitriev was visiting his family in Reno when he received a phone call from a distraught roommate in Minneapolis informing him that their house had been burglarized. Dmitriev fumed with anxiety as his roommate explained that their laptops, guitars, and iPods—with a total value exceeding $6,000—were gone.

A week later, the five roommates had lost all hope of the police finding the perpetrator, and had already spent thousands of dollars replacing their stolen goods. Then they saw a suspicious advertisement on Craigslist. It was for the same four-year-old model of Toshiba laptop that had been stolen from Dmitriev's room.

Dmitriev posed as an interested buyer and agreed to meet the seller at a coffee shop. His suspect was "Michael," a bulky man of Hispanic descent, wearing a University of Minnesota letterman's jacket.

He claimed to be a college student in his 20s, but cops charged "Daniel Gonzalez" asa 39-year-old career con man
courtesy of Natalie Dabu
He claimed to be a college student in his 20s, but cops charged "Daniel Gonzalez" asa 39-year-old career con man

But Michael showed up with the wrong laptop, so Dmitriev went with him back to his Dinkytown fraternity house. When he saw his computer, Dmitriev immediately knew it was the right one. To be sure, he discreetly checked the serial number. It matched.

Dmitriev sent a text message to his roommates telling them to call the police. But by the time officers arrived, Michael had fled through the back door.

Upon searching his room, the cops found about $7,000 worth of stolen property. They also discovered a work schedule for the men's shoe department of Macy's in downtown Minneapolis.

The following day, MPD Sgt. Tom Stiller arrested Michael when he arrived for his shift.

But police don't believe Michael's name is really Michael. Though the MPD had previous records of him under the name Michael Goldenberg, he is known in the Hennepin County court system as Daniel Olavarria Gonzalez—a 39-year-old with an extensive rap sheet. His arrests span 15 years and four states, for crimes including larceny, theft, auto theft, forgery, and receiving stolen property. He has 15 known aliases in Hennepin County, and his former roommates have discovered formal documentation for several more since his arrest. He was registered at the University of Minnesota under the name Anthony Martines, which police believe he was using to blend into the student community. Because of his status as a flight risk, he was booked in the Hennepin County Safety Facility at $150,000 bail, which he never made.

"If he would have got out on bail, he would have just packed up his stuff and left," Stiller says. "If I were a bettin' man, I'd say he probably isn't Daniel Gonzalez, but he won't give us a straight answer."

 

IN THE FALL OF 2005, Heidi Schmitt was a 21-year-old junior at the University of Minnesota. She hadn't dated much, hadn't really had a serious boyfriend since high school. Then her sorority sister introduced her to a co-worker. A muscular man with a dark complexion and a gentle demeanor, he introduced himself as Antonio Martinez, and said he had recently left the gang life in New York City to start over at the University of Minnesota.

"He came across like this guy who was trying to make life better for himself," she says.

In only a few days of knowing Martinez, Schmitt caught him in a lie. She asked who his professors were, and he couldn't name one. He didn't even seem to know what classes he was taking. Suspicious, Schmitt searched for his name on the University of Minnesota's student directory website, but found nothing.

"Just admit you're not a U student," she confronted him. But Martinez wouldn't fess up, and though Schmitt didn't believe him, she dropped it. "I don't know why," she says. "He was just really charming."

Two months later, the two were dating. In their six-month relationship, Schmitt found plenty more to be suspicious about. Like how Martinez was always quoting movies she only knew about from her 37-year-old sister. Or how he obsessively worked out and took steroids. One day he would arbitrarily come home with a brick of marijuana. Another he would sit on a stranger's motorcycle and ask Schmitt to take his picture. Then she would see it posted on Facebook claiming it was his "new ride."

She knew there was something wrong, but couldn't place it, and Martinez was always quick to explain. "He was really good at concealing," she remembers. "And it was mostly just little things."

One day, Martinez seemingly forgot his birthday. He had claimed to be 24, but when Schmitt asked what year he was born, he gave a response that would have made him 23. When Schmitt asked him about it, he claimed to have simply made a mistake. Schmitt wasn't satisfied. How could someone just forget the year they were born?

After that, Schmitt was determined to catch Martinez, and confronted him many times. "I don't care if you're older," she pleaded. "I just want you to be real!"

But Martinez denied everything.

"Part of the reason I kept staying with him was because I had this drive to find out who he really was," Schmitt says. "Nothing made sense."

It wouldn't be until more than a year later that she found out that he also went by the name Gonzalez.

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