Meet 'Crying Girl,' California's Celebrity Grifter
Jill Johnson is UC Davis' hipster grifter. (Instead of hip, though, she's a beauty queen.) Local blogs hunted down the "prolific and notorious scammer" with "heavy, tear-smeared makeup." The internet used to be for porn. Now it's for outing grifters.
Crying girl first appeared on DavisWiki, the college town's community website, in March of 2010. Residents described a girl who would approach them with tears streaming from her eyes, weeping that she had either had a fight with her boyfriend or lost her mother. She'd then ask for $40 for a train ticket, "give or take a few dollars to lend legitimacy." Dozens of Davis-dwellers testified to the scam, leading bloggers and local media to crowdsource a manhunt on the mysterious girl. Jill Johnson was eventually outed; DavisWiki users provided links to her MySpace and now-pseudonymous Facebook profiles. (The latter of which shows her posing with beauty pageant trophies.) Internet users documented crying girl's friends, ruses, favorite locations for scamming, getaway vehicles, a license plate number, and swapped digital pictures.
So the internet stopped (or at least deterred) a criminal, and Davis gets its own fameball scam artist to cherish and obsess over, to love and to hate, to enact a collective grifter exorcism.
While Harvard fraudster Adam Wheeler's great genius was staying away from social media, L'Affaire Crying Girl proves that the internet can out grifters with or without their participation. Which is great because the non-grifting masses are safer, but there's something to be said for the sly, scrappy wit of a talented corner-cutter. With internet-mobilized vigilantes breathing down your neck, what's a scrappy grifter to do? Move to Nigeria and run credit card scams? Did we—the blogging masses—kill the dashing, devious Don Drapers of yore?
Or are we just better at identifying them? Because even the suavest, most romantic grifter is worthless if we can't read about and obsess over him. So: Long live the grifter. And long live our ability to hunt him down on MySpace, too. [Davis Wiki, Davis Voice, California Aggie, News10 via BoingBoing]
* Update: I originally misidentified DavisWiki as a "campus wiki," when it is actually the "world's best local wiki." Here's an article explaining how Davis won that honor. Special thanks to soy sauce scholar Jennifer 8. Lee for letting us know.