The serial scam artist sometimes known as Rod Bowling has been reported in Atlanta. As detailed in numerous Scene items since 2005, Bowling — also known as Rod Marshall, Rod Ericky, and Rod Boiling — earned a bad reputation in Cleveland, selling raffle tickets for Hummers that never existed, offering hot young women $60,000-a-year-marketing jobs, and promoting opportunities to star in a reality TV show. But he was just getting warmed up.
In June, Bowling was posting Craig’s List ads under the business name Media Planet, looking for help selling tickets to a non-existent fundraising event at the downtown Hyatt. Scene reached him via phone, but he claimed he was living in Arizona, and this alleged wrongdoer Rod Bowling had stolen his identity.
While working those scams, he’s also been refining the following approach: Posing as a Harvard graduate (or sometimes student), the smooth talker approaches investors (usually women), seeking investments for various glitzy night club events, and promising prospects a suspiciously good deal of 50% of net profits. Now Bowling is apparently in Atlanta, where he was setting up some club events before he stumbled across Cindy Belance.
Belance is a graphic artist in Dunwoody, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb where the minimum monthly rent is $2,00. She met Bowling — or the alleged Bowling — at an upscale party labor-day weekend. He told her he’s a Harvard man, and she believed it at first; he’d already infiltrated the local Harvard alumni club. But something smelled fishy. Bowling wore Harvard shirts constantly. And Harvard guys just don’t do that.
Furthermore, Belance had attended college in Boston. And when she and people they met tried to talk about Boston, it turned into a scene from a band sitcom, and he’d talk about something else.
“He flipped the subject,” she says. “He knows how to overtalk you to get what he wants. The guy has a gift, but he’s using it for the wrong thing.”
As the two spent more time together, more cracks appeared in his story. The Atlanta Bowling claimed to be wealthy, but grew nervous when it looked like he might be stuck with a check at an exclusive restaurant or a sky box at a baseball game. Belance conducted some research and found out about his sordid past. When she confronted him, he explained he’d been a victim of identity theft. She didn’t believe him, and started spreading word in her social circles. Soon, he stopped answering the (216) area code phone number he’d been using.
That phone number had matched a number Scene had obtained from a previous report. We called, and a man answered the phone as Bowling does, saying “Corporate.” (Sometimes, he’ll answer “Corporate Headquarters.”) The man on the other end claimed not to be Bowling, and said he stepped out, but he’d go get him. Then the phone disconnected, and Bowling did not answer subsequent calls. He did not return messages Scene left.
Belance describes this Bowling — or the cunning impostor — as “chubby,” black, around 5’11”, charismatic, and with a patch of gray on the right of his hair.
Based on movies we’ve seen and the conversation with Belance, here are some tips for a would-be scam artists trying to pass himself off as a Harvard graduate: 1) Don’t wear a Harvard shirt. 2) Learn the secret Ivy League handshake. 3) If anyone starts asking you about Boston, call it “Beantown” and say you love the song “Dirty Water” before suddenly talking about the weather. 4) If confronted with your alleged past misdeeds, tell them the information they have is wrong — “wicked wrong.” 5) Complain you can’t find real chowder anywhere — but, and this is important, pronounce it “chow-duh,” accent on “duh.”