Chris Kallal's secret life

Twincy co-owner and former Metromix reporter charged with identity theft

Chris Kallal was celebrating.

It was the last Friday of April, and the 29-year-old had organized a party at Rinata Restaurant in Uptown to mark the launch of his new business, a public relations firm called Twincy. Just after 10 p.m., Kallal sat at the restaurant bar surrounded by dozens of friends and colleagues that had answered his invitation.

It was less than ideal timing for two Minneapolis police officers to enter armed with a warrant for his arrest.

"Are you Chris Kallal?" one officer asked.

"Yes," he replied.

Kallal appeared surprised at the officers' presence, but he didn't resist when they slapped on the handcuffs and led him out to the squad car. It happened quickly and quietly, leaving many of his party guests baffled.

Kallal is well known in the Twin Cities restaurant scene. Until earlier this year, he worked as a reporter for Metromix, a KARE 11-affiliated website that covers Minneapolis-St. Paul culture. He chronicles his thoughts on local restaurants online with Twitter and a blog.

Now, as co-founder of Twincy, Kallal promotes popular local restaurants, including Thom Pham's recently opened Wondrous Azian Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis.

But police say Kallal has lived a double life.

Last year, those two lives intersected, according to court and police documents, culminating in a strange encounter between two people who were never supposed to meet: different girlfriends he lived with in apartments just miles away from each other.

As a consequence of that meeting, Kallal was charged with two felonies for allegedly stealing mail and the identity of Alyssa Geronsin, his then-girlfriend of more than six years. Police say he used the information to rack up $39,000 in credit card bills under her name.

"It was so bizarre," says Geronsin, recounting the tale. "This happens in movies and on TV."

Kallal filed a motion to dismiss the case, but has a hearing scheduled for October 6. If convicted, Kallal faces up to 13 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. Kallal did not return requests for an interview. His attorney, Grant Scott Smith, declined to comment on the case. But official documents, Geronsin, and other witnesses tell the story.

Geronsin's first clue that Kallal was not being honest came more than two years ago. She had been dating Kallal for five years, and lived with him in an apartment in south Minneapolis.

One day, while checking her bank account online, Geronsin noticed that someone else had been charging purchases to her Wells Fargo account.

When she told Kallal about it, he admitted to making the charges, says Geronsin. But the confession came with a long story about mountains of hospital bills for what he feared may be a serious illness.

The two decided to work it out and not involve police, she says. "I felt really bad for him."

Kallal's peculiar behavior didn't stop there. Geronsin says she didn't know what to make of it when he told her that the government was recruiting him for a job, and she shouldn't be concerned if strangers began calling asking about him. Geronsin once found a mailing label marked with Kallal's name under an address for an apartment a few miles away. When she asked him about it, Kallal was quick to explain that his cousin had just moved to town, and the post office had made a mistake.

"I had some strange suspicions," remembers Geronsin. "There were all these little red flags."

But many of Kallal's stories seemed too strange not to believe, and his charm went a long way. Others who have known Kallal also describe his gregarious and likable personality.

As a promoter of the Twin Cities band the Alarmists, Kallal was always willing to pick up the bar tab, says the band's lead singer, Eric Lovold. But Lovold says he, too, saw odd signs in Kallal's behavior.

One of those came almost a year after Kallal organized a photo shoot to promote the band's new album. Lovold received a call from the shoot's photographer, wondering what had happened to payment for the gig. The call came as a surprise to Lovold, who remembers paying Kallal promptly. By that time, Kallal and the band no longer worked together.

That payment has still not come, the photographer says.

"He's very charismatic, seemed very confident," says the photographer, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "He seemed pretty organized and everything before he dropped the conversation and wouldn't respond to me."

In early 2009, Kallal gave Geronsin some more strange news. He had just been hired as a reporter for CNN through a program with KARE 11, he told her.

Geronsin felt as if she should be happy for her boyfriend, but says she couldn't help being a little suspicious at what seemed like an unbelievable upgrade from his job at Metromix. She even looked up the new position on the Internet. Though it didn't mention Kallal, the job he described did exist.

Kallal's traveling became increasingly frequent. Kallal would leave town almost every month, explaining to Geronsin it was for work, she says. What were supposed to be trips of a few days often stretched into a week or longer.

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