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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Twins make for serious case of 'whodunit'
The Gann brothers' stories are so confusing, even victims aren't sure who did what.
By REBECCA CATALANELLO, Times Staff Writer
Published November 6, 2007
Jordan Gann, 27, is in a Hillsborough County jail, accused of defrauding a Largo woman of $750 in one of many well-worn scams.
Simon Gann suggests his twin uses details about Simon in cons.
[Courtesy of Meredith Gavin]
[Courtesy of Meredith Gavin]
Meredith Gavin of Albany, N.Y., says Jordan Gann is the father of her son, Liam. But, she says, it could instead be his twin brother, Simon Gann.
TAMPA - Over and over, it's the same pattern. A real estate agent thinks she's showing homes to a millionaire. A bartender believes the customer wants to book a party for hundreds of guests. A woman is thrilled she has met a great catch who wants to spend thousands on her.
Often the man has documents proving his wealth - a bank statement he made up at Kinko's that says he has millions, just no cash or credit immediately handy.
Then it ends the same. No client, no boyfriend, no buyer. The victim taken for his or her time, kindness or money.
Jordan Gann, 27, now sits in a Hillsborough County jail, accused of defrauding a Largo woman of $750 in one of these well-worn scams.
As investigators look into his past exploits, they are not only trying to piece together how many other victims might be out there, but just how many con men named "Gann" they're dealing with.
Identical twins Jordan and Simon Gann have spent their adult lives hopscotching the country, impressing people with their charm, dark-eyed good looks and intellect, according to police and victims.
Taken individually, the crimes seem minor:
- A woman in a Clearwater bar believes Jordan is a pediatric oncologist named Dr. Jonathan Morales, just back from volunteering overseas. She buys him dinner, spends the night with him, then finds herself alone in a parking lot a day later, $750 gone, along with the man she now realizes was just a con man.
- A car dealer in Utah lets a wealthy man named Andrew Morales test drive a luxury car. A day later, Salt Lake City police find him with four keys worth $600 - two to Ferraris, one to a Bentley, one to a Lamborghini. Jordan Gann tells them he stole them to lend credibility to his identity scam.
"It's so small what he does," said Meredith Gavin, 31, of Albany, N.Y., who has spent years trying to find the Gann she says duped her and got her pregnant. "Three hundred bucks here, a thousand bucks there. There's got to be a thousand people he's touched negatively."
Despite detectives' suspicions, Simon Gann says he's not involved. But he does have a theory about the basis for his brother's cons.
If Jordan is telling people he started college at age 15, went to Harvard and patented a cancer cure, for example, Simon says that fictional biography is simply an exaggeration of his own life.
"The majority of his academic history is pretty much a retelling of me," Simon said this week. "I was always the one with the academic accomplishments."
* * *
Police say they don't know all the victims. But the trail is long.
Arizona, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Utah all show records of arrests for a man named Jordan Gann.
Tampa police say they believe he or his brother have also traveled through California, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Texas, Washington and Pennsylvania, maybe Oregon.
Jordan Gann declined to speak with the St. Petersburg Times.
But Simon Gann maintains he has never gotten in trouble, has never been to Florida and is not involved in his twin's scams.
Simon said he leads a legitimate life, split between New York and Washington, D.C.
He said he, not Jordan, went to an exclusive preparatory school, took college classes at age 12, studied at Harvard, MIT and Stanford University. And he's the one who is about to get $500-million for developing an algorithm that will help record companies increase revenues by 9 percent.
Alexandria, Va., police Detective Edward Milner laughed when told of Simon's statements. "The only algorithm he can come up with is enough money to pay for a Greyhound bus ticket," Milner said. "I challenge him to prove anything he says to be true."
Officials at Harvard, MIT and Stanford said they had no record of either Gann taking classes there. The exclusive St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass., said their records show Simon attended in 1996-97, but there was no indication he graduated. Simon declined to say who was purchasing his algorithm.
"He doesn't know the truth if it stared him in the face," said Milner, who is investigating a complaint by a Washington, D.C., area woman, who says Simon Gann defrauded her.
Simon wouldn't talk about that. He said he flew to the Bahamas to flee the "drama" that has unfolded since his brother's arrest - another claim Milner said was fabrication.
But when asked about Jordan's charades, Simon called them ridiculous lies that only a fool would believe.
Who, he asks, would buy the story that a man with no cash or credit cards on him is a famous surgeon or rich lawyer willing to hand over thousands or millions to someone they just met? Such a supposed millionaire, Simon said, would have to be "a complete psychotic."
* * *
Details about the Gann brothers' early lives are scant.
In 1999, father Blaine Gann told police in his hometown of Metheun, Mass., that his twin sons, then 18, had stolen from every family member and were "forbidden to enter the house due to their disrespectful behavior," according to a police report.
The father said he came home to check on his sick daughter, heard two sets of footsteps and a door slam, then saw the twins running off. The police report says the boys apparently came home to discard their dirty clothes and steal their father's clean ones.
Simon Gann said the two of them were abused by their parents and lived as runaways.
Blaine Gann declined to talk to the Timesabout his sons.
Jordan frequently uses his parents' Metheun, Mass., address as his own, according to arrest records from six states.
Simon said he had recently supplied records documenting his abuse to ABC's 20/20. When a Times reporter asked for the same, he said, "I assume the job of a journalist is to find that."
A clerk with the Lawrence District Court that oversees Methuen cases said there were no criminal complaint records involving either Blaine Gann or Suzanne Gann, who records indicate may be his wife.
Savannah Brodeur, 23, of Spring Hill, first met the Ganns in New Hampshire when she was 15 and they were 18. She said they lied to her then and now she has a 7-year-old daughter by Jordan.
She feels the brothers' practiced scams come from a need to survive.
Their strained relationship with their parents, she said, forced Simon and Jordan to fend for themselves at an early age, find food and shelter on cold New England nights. They were good at lying, she said, good at giving a good first impression to strangers. It's what they do.
"A lot of people take the easy road before they take the right road," Brodeur said.
In her mind, though, there is a key difference between the twins. Simon may set out to con someone, but he often ends up liking them too much to pull it off. Jordan maintains a distance from people that allows him to take from them.
Simon, she said, mostly just lies.
* * *
One thing even police and the victims acknowledge is Jordan Gann's polish.
Jennifer Keele, the 36-year-old Largo biochemist who filed the complaint that led to Jordan's most recent arrest, said he spoke intelligently about her field.
"Jordan is a genius," said Gavin, who thought his statements about being an oncologist seemed plausible.
"He's brilliant," echoed Amy Austin, 64, a Fort Walton Beach real estate broker who said she was duped by Jordan, under the alias "Dr. Carlos Ramirez."
Simon, too, comes across like he knows his stuff. In a less than two-hour conversation with the Times, he alluded to Aristotle's ethics, the Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables.
He slipped into French, then said he knows 14 languages, giving examples one after another:
"French," he said, and rattled off a sample. "Spanish," he said, and did it again. "Italian . . . German . . . Japanese . . ."
Mark Sinacori, a former classmate of the twins at Holy Trinity School in Lawrence, Mass., said Simon had the highest average in the eighth grade and won a science fair prize for genetics.
Sinacori recalled Jordan as "a prankster and joker . . . kind of crazy" who brought a plastic gun to class once and shot bullets at the students for laughs."
Tampa police Detective Curtis Smith said last month he believed Jordan Gann studies on the Internet, and found no evidence the suspect ever attended college.
There are indications that between ages 17 and 20, the Gann brothers were busy in court.
Lawrence District Court in Massachusetts has records of three criminal cases against Jordan and six against Simon, including an outstanding warrant from 2001 for failure to appear in court, a clerk said.
* * *
Meredith Gavin gets frustrated over all the victims who have contacted her through her Web site, www.geocities.com/ simonwilkes2003/index.html, but refuse to go public about their experiences with the Ganns. She says she has heard from up to 50, and at least five believe Jordan Gann fathered their children.
Several contacted by the Times did not respond to requests for interviews. "I'm all Gann'd out," one wrote in an e-mail.
"You feel so dumb," Gavin said. She had been living in Florida only briefly when she met a man she thinks was Jordan Gann, but isn't convinced it wasn't Simon.
Convinced he was a pediatric oncologist, she and friends spent about $1,000 on him over four days because he said he didn't have his credit cards.
But Gavin not only believed Gann, she slept with him and got pregnant. Even Simon said Liam Gavin, 3, is the spitting image of him and his brother, with his dark eyes, hair and olive complexion.
That Liam is autistic, Gavin said, is not a coincidence. Simon has told people, including the Times, that he has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.
Gavin said she wants nothing from Gann except to see him, or them, behind bars.
Simon, meanwhile, has little sympathy for his brother's victims. "You go and have sex with someone you just met who says he's a millionaire?" he asked. Greed motivates them, he said, whether it be a desire for a rich boyfriend or a big real estate sale.
Simon suggested his brother is motivated by drugs. Tampa police said Jordan told them he conned people to support a prescription drug habit.
But Simon said there's more. "He wants the attention. He wants the girls, he wants the money."
Simon said his brother calls looking for money and telling stories about knowing rapper Jay-Z and other famous people.
Simon said he knows those are lies because he knows many of those famous people himself.
"There's nothing you can do," Simon said, "for someone who is not living in reality."
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 813 226-3383.
A partial timeline of Gann brothers' (mostly Jordan's) activities:
1999: Both arrested on multiple breaking and entering charges in Methuen, Mass.
July 8, 1999: Jordan arrested in Salem, N.H., after running from an officer. Gann says he had warrants in Massachusetts.
Aug. 18, 2000: Jordan arrested in Nashua, N.H., charged with stalking a music store employee, telling her he's a 21-year-old attorney. Officers find pills on him, which he says are ecstasy.
Aug. 30, 2000: Jordan arrested in Nashua, accused of stealing $1,600 from a woman. He told officers he spent it on court fines, bills, a leather jacket and shoes.
Dec. 9, 2000: Nashua police respond when Jordan tells a woman he might kill himself if she doesn't drive him to Hudson, N.H. He eludes police capture.
2001: Warrant issued for Simon for failure to appear in court in Massachusetts.
July 2003: Meredith Gavin files a complaint that she was conned by a man she believes is Jordan in Orlando.
Oct. 25, 2003: Jordan arrested near Salt Lake City when officers discover four stolen luxury car keys on him that he says he wanted for an identity scam.
January 2004: Someone files a complaint with Tucson, Ariz., police that Jordan defrauded them of a computer.
February 2004: Jordan arrested after Pensacola police say he conned a bar owner into paying $97 for new scrubs and a lab coat embroidered with the name "Dr. Carlos Ramirez." Gann tells the bar owner he has deposited $250,000 into the man's account, then takes $400 from him before disappearing. Later, posing as a real estate buyer, he convinces two Fort Walton Beach real estate brokers to buy him a computer and rent him a hotel room. He vanishes again, leaving the new lab coat in a victim's car.
Aug. 20, 2004: Authorities in Nashville arrest a man they first believe is Simon, but fingerprints later show is Jordan, who is wanted in Florida. A bar manager in Nashville claimed Gann stabbed him with a pen after refusing to pay an $80 bar tab.
Nov. 17, 2004-July 15, 2006: Jordan is in Gulf Correctional Institute in Florida for grand theft stemming from the North Florida incidents.
Aug. 21, 2007: Jordan is arrested in Tucson, Ariz., after a Coldwell Banker employee tells police a suspicious person told her he is an oncologist and wants to buy homes in the $800,000 to $1-million price range. He tells police he is Matt P. Cohen of Massachusetts and is arrested on charges of false reporting to police and refusing to give his name. The arresting officer finds a New Jersey warrant for him. He is carrying the picture of a small girl, who he tells police is his daughter in Florida.
Sept. 28, 2007: Melody Stang, a St. Petersburg real estate broker, tells police she was defrauded of $2,440 by a man claiming to be Dr. Shawn J. Rosenthal, an oncologist at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Oct. 9, 2007: Tampa police issue a warrant for Jordan, saying he defrauded a woman of $750 after convincing her he was a doctor who wanted to give her a $10,000 bank account.
Oct. 14, 2007: Jordan is arrested at Hattricks Tavern in Tampa after a manager learns he's wanted and calls police. He is booked into jail and a judge later revokes bail.
Oct. 29, 2007: Simon tells the St. Petersburg Times he is in Nassau, Bahamas, at a casino. Alexandria, Va., police confirm they are investigating a theft complaint against Simon and say they believe he is in the Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia area.
Sources: Lawrence District Court and police in Tucson, Ariz.; Nashua, N.H.; Pensacola; South Jordan, Utah; Salem, N.H.; Tampa; St. Petersburg; Alexandria, Va.;, Nashville; and Methuen, Mass.