I met Abe, who called himself Lew Berlin, at a hotel bar back in 1983 or 1984 while having an after work wine with a friend. My first impression was that he was kind of dorky, which probably made him seem safe. He was with his wingman, the VP of Bonus Bags, which was Lew’s advertising company, and they were in town to meet with clients. His VP was named Ken and he was a big guy. Ken’s last name was something like Torkelson and he was from Atlanta.
Bonus Bags made an advertising coupon book that was attached to the brown paper bags that grocer’s put the groceries in at check-out. Clients that I know he worked with were Sentry and Red Owl. He was traveling between Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis and somewhere in Ohio.
Lew was flirtatious and he charmed me immediately. We went out for a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant. I wish it would have ended there.
Lew told me that he was divorced and had a two year old daughter. I believe he called his ex Sharon. He said that he had a lot of money and she did not have to work so she spent her days at the beauty salon getting her hair and nails done or shopping. Sharon still lived in the LA area, possibly Monterrey, which was his base of operations.
He told me many stories that are familiar to readers of this blog. He said he came from a wealthy Jewish family. He said he had a law degree but didn’t practice law. He told me he was a folk singer during college. He claimed that he was related to the family that owned a popular junior fashion house in New York but I don’t remember the name right now. He said he was distantly related to Irving Berlin. He also said that the original family name, changed by immigration officials, was Balene (or Baleen, not sure of spelling) which might be a clue to other identities.
Lew was interviewed by “Advertising Age” and he showed me the article. It helped give him credibility, although the tone of the article was somewhat skeptical.
I knew Lew for 1-2 years, although it was only sporadic. He made all kinds of promises and said he wanted to bring me into his world. There were all kinds of clues that he was not what he claimed but I wanted to believe he was true.
Lew scammed me with a car deal. He claimed to be buying cars for a free giveaway for Bonus Bags and he could get a discount for me. I took out a loan and paid $9000 for the car, which never arrived. When I starting putting pressure on Lew he paid back some of the money, maybe about $2000-2500.
He told me he had cancer as a way of gaining sympathy.
Of course, Lew eventually disappeared with the remainder of the money.
I did try to pursue it legally but did not have the financial resources to continue to pay the lawyer. I also reported him to the local police and FBI but it was not an important case to them.
Lew was working with Red Owl in Minneapolis when I last talked to him. I did eventually talk to someone there who worked with him and she said they had heard he was in jail.
(Blog Master comment: If Abe/Alex/Lew had cancer in 1983, 32 years ago, I think it is time that a scientific study should be done to find out how he has managed to survive all these years.
Our timeline (see at bottom of blog) shows that Abe/Alex/Lew was married in 1984 but I don’t think Abe ever lets morals or laws get in his way)