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

BY THE SUMMER OF 2006, Schmitt had ripped up and deleted every picture she had of Martinez, and moved on.

That fall, an 18-year-old named Donovan Carter and some friends were on the hunt for a party. They found a stranger's house emitting loud music, with hordes of college students wandering in and out. Inside, Carter and his friend Angela met Gonzalez, the party's host. Angela and Gonzalez began dating soon after.

A year later, on September 14, 2007, the group of friends left a party in Gonzalez's car. As soon as they pulled onto University Avenue, Carter noticed a police car trailing close behind.

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

Details

Get an update on the campus con man, see an interactive map of his travels, and see a photo gallery of the man known as Daniel Gonzalez with his friends.

The group tried to stay calm—they tried not to think about underage drinking tickets and pissed-off parents—as the car drove the few remaining blocks that separated them from a much-desired McDonald's fix. But as soon as they turned into the parking lot, the officer switched on his sirens and began barking orders through the loudspeaker.

"I'll take care of this," Gonzalez assured his friends, ignoring the officer's demands and stepping out of the car.

"Get back in the fucking car!" the officer screamed, as he pulled out his gun. Two more units barreled into the Dinkytown McDonald's parking lot, and Carter knew his night of partying had just come to an abrupt halt. The officers cuffed Gonzalez and threw him in the back of a squad car. Then they called the remaining four out one by one.

"We had to walk with our backs to them, with our hands up," Carter remembers.

After confessing to underage drinking, each student took a Breathalyzer and received a citation. Then Carter noticed something unusual on his ticket: "Tampering with a motor vehicle."

"Did you know this vehicle was stolen?" the officer asked.

Carter's stomach dropped.

"That was the biggest shock," he says, shaking his head and searching for the right words, "in a long time."

FOUR MONTHS LATER, Gonzalez was arrested at Macy's.

On March 6, Gonzalez agreed to a plea of 270 days in the Hennepin County workhouse on the charges of receiving stolen property, two accounts of auto theft, fleeing a peace officer, and fourth-degree driving while impaired. He will receive credit for the 67 days he served awaiting trial.

Pending good behavior, he is scheduled to be released on June 26.

"If you look at it in terms of how many lives he impacted by doing what he was doing, it was quite a few," Stiller says. "A career criminal like him should probably have gotten a hell of a lot more time. He's not going to stop. I guarantee it."

TALKING WITH GONZALEZ in the dim confines of the Hennepin County Safety Facility basement while he awaits transfer to the workhouse, it's easy to understand how he was able to deceive so many people. His head is freshly shaven, and though he does not look 24, his light-almond face lacks the usual road miles of a man approaching 40.

He says he is Anthony Martines, and he is 24 years old. He says the authorities have made a mistake, and he is being prosecuted under the wrong identity. He says he moved to the United States from Puerto Rico around 2000, when he was only 17 years old. He bought the identity of an older man (Daniel Gonzalez) to use at bars and clubs. The criminal history came with the name, he claims.

"I just want to go to school, to get a good education," he pleads.

But at times he can't keep his story straight. He admits to being arrested in New Jersey for burglary, a crime for which he is still wanted. According to police records, this arrest occurred in 1992. According to his story, he would have been eight years old.

Later he claims he was 14 when he moved to the United States, which would make him 21 or 22 now.

He also keeps accidentally referring to Denver. When asked if he has ever lived or been arrested there, he quickly says no. But according to police records, he was arrested in Denver in 1995 for first-degree forgery.

Gonzalez says his most recent arrests were a simple misunderstanding. He was buying and selling laptops on Craigslist to make extra money. He didn't know they were "hot."

His 15 aliases known to Hennepin County are easily explained as well. He says he was charged with multiple underage drinking citations before he turned 21, and he gave police officers phony names. "I didn't want to give them my real name because I knew I was going to go to school and play sports," he says.

When the guard tells him his time is up, Gonzalez protests that he's not the con man police think he is.

"That's bologna," he says. "They have no proof. All they have is a list on a computer."

"Come on," the guard growls, and for the first time, Gonzalez looks like he is going to lose his poise. "They don't know me," he says, just before the thick metal door slams shut.

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