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Multifaced man resurfaces in Clearwater

He claimed to be a millionaire and wanted to outfit his new house, authorities say. That type of activity isn't unusual for him, they say.

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2000


TAMPA -- Alfred Jack Oakley has been many things to many people. A pilot. A novelist. A movie producer.

Jack Laking, salesman for O'Conner's Carpet & Tile in Clearwater, met the "millionaire" claiming to have bought a beach house in need of $14,000 worth of flooring and marble fireplaces.

"I was excited at the prospect of a big sale," Laking said. "It took a few hours before I got a feeling he wasn't who he said he was."

In the past few years, several people have experienced the same emotional roller coaster when dealing with Oakley, 68, and his many personas. And once again, Oakley's exploits have landed him in jail.

After Laking and at least one other man complained about Oakley, authorities went looking for him. Although not accused of breaking any laws with Laking, it turns out he had missed a court date on a previous theft charge. Oakley, a former grocery store bagger from Indian Rocks Beach, was arrested 10 days ago and remained at the Pinellas County Jail Monday night in lieu of $5,513 bail.

That arrest was three months after a Hillsborough County judge gave Oakley three years' probation and a stern lecture about avoiding the types of places and people that led him into past troubles. A jury had found Oakley guilty of stealing a Mercedes-Benz from a woman he had befriended and promised to buy a house and cars. He also has charges for writing bad checks and practicing law without a license.

When he showed up in Laking's office, he ambled in, a mishmash of clothes hanging from his 6-foot-7 frame. This time it was a dirty, green T-shirt, cut-off jeans and sneakers with no socks. In the past, he's been known to wear pink sports coats with brown pants and no socks.

"He dressed like a bum, but you never know down here," Laking said. "They may have a trillion dollars."

Oakley immediately began talking about his new beach house. He also made it clear that he was waiting for a local dealer to deliver his Rolls-Royce. He began making personal calls on the company's phone.

"It's hard to convey how convincing he is at first," Laking said.

Oakley's story began to crumble when Laking's boss took Oakley out to the beach house. There appeared to be people still living in the home and Oakley didn't have a key, Laking said. Oakley said he wasn't moving in for a day or two and to do the estimate by looking through the windows.

Back in the office, Oakley said he was filming a movie next month in Pass-a-Grille starring actor Sean Connery, a familiar yarn in Oakley's arsenal. Then he added that he was waiting on delivery of five new cars.

The stories became too much for Laking, who called the car dealership to check him out. The dealership told Laking they had no cars for Oakley and that other businesses had called in the past asking the same questions. Oakley left before Clearwater police arrived.

"The whole thing was way out there," Laking said. Wayne Shelor, spokesman for the Clearwater Police Department, did not know the specifics of the newest problems but said he wasn't surprised to hear Oakley's name again. Oakley contacted Shelor about 1 1/2 years ago claiming to be a writer for the Times of London in town to do a story about the police department. He showed Shelor a business card.

Shelor, a longtime newspaperman before becoming the police spokesman, was suspicious. Oakley had not committed any crimes, so Shelor blew him off. On his way out of the office, Oakley asked directions for how to walk to St. Petersburg, Shelor said. He then jumped up and clicked his heels together. Shelor questioned Oakley's mental health.

"He seemed a full bubble off-plumb," Shelor said.

Socrates A. Charos had the same assesment after a recent run in with Oakley. Charos is renovating the old Royalty Theater on Cleveland Street in Clearwater. Oakley came by one day driving a Bentley and offered to buy the building. Oakely said he had worked at the theater in the 1940s and had a great affection for the place. The Bentley, Charos later discovered, was from a local dealer, whom Oakley had convinced to let him take a test drive.

Oakley used the phone several times, ordered a piano for the theater -- but didn't pay for it -- and then opened up a bank account using the theater's name, Charos said. Charos refused the piano and later sorted out the problem with the bank. Charos said he will not soon forget his experience with Oakley.

"He doesn't seem like a bad man," Charos said. "It's like something's just not right with him."

- Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 225-3365 or brink@sptimes.com.

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