OMAHA, Neb. – A man alleged to have more than three dozen identities, an affable charm and a drove of disguises is wanted in a scam that has left a trail of bad checks and used cars across the Midwest.
Dozens of car dealers from Kentucky to Kansas have discovered in the last two years that one seller, who seemed like such a nice guy, apparently was a skilled swindler.
Edward Raifsnider (search), 45, of Joplin, Mo., is suspected of writing false checks totaling about $2 million to buy used vehicles from their owners and collecting cash when selling the cars and trucks to dealerships.
Key to his success: The use of approximately 37 false identities and 17 false Social Security numbers, said Supervisor Deputy U.S. Marshal John Spray (search), with the U.S. Marshals office in Springfield, Mo.
"The man is just, I mean, he's one of the best. He can become somebody in five minutes if he needs to," said Spray, whose office is leading the investigation into Raifsnider for the U.S. Marshals Service.
Raifsnider appears to have a fake U.S. Marshal badge, which he has used to pose as a marshal, Spray said.
Raifsnider also has portrayed himself as an FBI agent, a Secret Service (search) agent and has a penchant for cowboy attire, said Detective Brady Stuart with the Joplin Police Department.
Since he first began investigating a fraud case against Raifsnider in 2001, Stuart has been collecting information in as many as 15 states on cases he believes to be linked to Raifsnider.
The police detective seems to also have been incorporated into Raifsnider's repertoire of identities. Raifsnider is suspected of using the name Bradley Stewart to fraudulently buy vehicles in Chicago, Stuart said.
Raifsnider's scheme tends to go down just about the same way each time, authorities say. An expensive vehicle is paid for with a phony cashier's check on a Friday and sold several states away on a Saturday.
With offices closed for the weekend, it's impossible to verify whether the check is real and it's too soon for the vehicle to be reported stolen.
Raifsnider's criminal record appears to start with a bogus check passed in Oklahoma in 1982, for which he was sentenced to five years in state prison, Spray said Friday. During his most recent arrest for a concealed weapon found in his car in Missouri in January 2003, Raifsnider was using an alias, Spray said.
His true identity wasn't known until a fingerprint analysis came back, and by then he had posted bail, he said.
Dakota County in Nebraska issued an arrest warrant for Raifsnider in May, accusing him of theft by deception in a separate case.
Raifsnider frequently changes his facial hair, sometimes dons a toupee to disguise his balding pate and can drop and gain pounds with enviable ease, Spray said.
"He's pretty good at losing weight and gaining the weight back. So, I don't know what he's doing but I wish he could help me with my little weight loss program," Spray joked.
Raifsnider doesn't seem likely to stop, Spray said.
"I think I would just take the money and disappear forever," Spray said. "But he just keeps at it."