Sam "Scam" Atkinson returns to the Tampa Bay area to face fraud - WNCT

Sam "Scam" Atkinson returns to the Tampa Bay area to face fraud and theft charges

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Samuel Atkinson, 34, had a good run romancing beautiful women, driving fast cars and living the life of a rich Tampa doctor back in the summer of 2010.

Atkinson, who sometimes went to business appointments wearing hospital scrubs, said he owned two medical clinics, was on the staff of TGH and even had the pay stubs to prove it.

He told acquaintances he was a trust fund kid from Boston who partied with Celtics players, and occasional babysat his grandfather's jaguar when his elder relative came here for cruises. That helped explain why Atkinson wasn't driving around town in his Escalade or Porsche on some days.

But as it turned out, Atkinson wasn't a doctor--certainly not rich--and the checks he wrote to pay for fast cars and a dream home weren't worth the blue ink in his ballpoint pen.

"He's your stereotypical professional con artist," said Pinellas Sheriff's Detective Joseph Cangemi.

These days you can find colorful accounts of Atkinson's bogus exploits on sites like Filthyliar.com and Ripoff Report.

But when an exceptionally attractive and successful young business woman from Largo first met him on Match.com three years ago and quickly fell in love with him, she thought she'd met her one and only true love.

Within weeks she and Atkinson were working with custom builder David Habib to design an $800,000 dream home.

"They kissed, they hugged, they were holding hands, talking about baby rooms," Habib said.

But not for long.

The $30,000 check that Atkinson handed Habib as a deposit turned out to be written on a TCF bank account that didn't exist.

"The check bounced," Habib said.

So did several others that Atkinson wrote to local car dealers for cash purchases of high end vehicles, one of which he gave to his fiance, according to Cangemi.

"Locally, I know he went through at least four cars," said Cangemi. "Two Cadillac Escalades, one Porsche Panamera that—even used—he paid $140,000 for it."

Before his mythological life fell apart due to a stream of bad checks Atkinson treated his girlfriend and her family to a Las Vegas vacation where Cangemi said Atkinson proposed to his gal in front of her entire clan.

It was a stunning surprise—but not the only one she had in store.

"The entire vacation to Las Vegas was on her dime and she didn't know anything about it," said Cangemi.

And here's something else his fiancé didn't know.

Atkinson wed another woman in the same Las Vegas hotel three months earlier and was still married to her when he proposed.

The wife left Atkinson shortly before he met the woman from Pinellas after she realized he was a phony. She said that happened when they returned from dinner one night to find police waiting for them and a high speed chase ensued.

Neither woman wanted to be identified for this story because they are embarrassed, but both say they have traded notes and communicate regularly on how Atkinson hoodwinked them in quick succession.

Former Tampa co-worker Lonette Fedio didn't fall in love with Atkinson but says she sure fell for his fraudulent ways.

"He still has a legacy at the office and his name instead of Sam is "Scam," said Fedio.

Atkinson worked with Fedio briefly in Tampa as a fine wine salesman for PRP Wine International around the time he was masquerading as a physician in Pinellas County and remembers her initial impression of him as a very likeable guy.

"Yeah, from the first minute," said Fedio.

Fedio said it later turned out that Atkinson never actually sold any wine, but said he sure went through a lot of expensive samples.

"As far as we know he never did a wine tasting," said Fedio. "He just sat at home and drank the wine himself."

Around the time he proposed to his fiancé, Atkinson called Fedio late one night to say he'd caught his girlfriend cheating on him in Las Vegas with another man and had his wallet stolen there. Atkinson told Fedio when he returned to Tampa heartbroken, he discovered more hard luck--someone had stolen his Escalade from the parking lot of Tampa International Airport. 

Moved by his story, Fedio said she let him sleep on her couch that night, loaned him $300 cash in exchange for a check and rented a car in his name because Atkinson didn't have any ID.

Fedio said the check bounced and Atkinson dumped the rental car in New Jersey at her expense.

"He was just a great con artist," said Fedio. "Everything he said convinced you to believe."

Maybe then, but not anymore.

Cangemi said Atkinson defrauded a number of victims out of $241,000 before skipping town in a hurry.

He eventually landed under arrest for various theft and fraud-related crimes in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts where Cangemi said he served time before his extradition back to Pinellas County.

He is now in jail and awaiting trial for scheme to defraud in Pinellas County as well as charges of grand theft and uttering a forged instrument in Hillsborough County for the bad check he wrote to Fedio. 

The only traveling he does now is commuting between the Pinellas and Hillsborough jails for hearings.

One of Atkinson's final gambits as a free man took place in the small New Hampshire town of Chichester on November 11, 2011.

Police were investigating a complaint by a local furniture store that Atkinson had written a bad check. That's when they discovered he was also wanted on fugitive warrants for fraud-related crimes in Massachusetts and Pinellas County.

When officers cornered Atkinson inside his apartment that night they say he had one leg over the back porch railing in an escape attempt when an officer stopped him.

According to the police report the officer who was keeping watch at the back of the apartment building shined his flashlight on Atkinson and asked where he was going.

"Nowhere," Atkinson replied.

For once, Sam "Scam" Atkinson was telling the truth.

Cangemi said two years later that part hasn't changed.

"He's not going anywhere," said Cangemi.

Not yet anyway.

After Atkinson faces trial for his criminal offenses in the Tampa Bay area, authorities in California want to extradite him to face charges there--something to do with stealing expensive cars.

 

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