He didn’t really need the pickup truck. Sure, it was fun to drive around in with its big throaty engine and it suited his present preoccupation with all things outdoors. And his dog loved looking down from her open window at people in their cars and sometimes young mothers would point for their children and say, “Look at the puppy!” But he really didn’t need the truck and the price of gas was heading towards four dollars a gallon.
He had bought the truck after he retired, sort of as a new toy. He put 90,000 miles on it in the 18 months he owned it. After driving it for a while he discovered that not many people mess with you if you’re sitting up high in a pickup truck with a baseball cap pulled low over your forehead. It’s a lot different from driving a small car. People think twice before pulling out in front of you or cutting you off. Even BMW drivers give your bumper a little space. Of course, some of his neighbors think at first that he is a contractor instead of a resident, but who cares about that. Still, he had to get rid of the truck and get a car with better gas mileage. Remembering lining up for gas in the 70s, he was more worried about the availability of gas than he was its price. If gas became scarce, he wanted a tank of it to take him a long ways.
He posted an ad on a site that specializes in online truck sales and crossed his fingers. Who, in their right mind, would want a pickup that got about 14 miles per gallon going downhill? He knew that some guys who weren’t posers actually used their trucks for work and had to have a truck, but would they buy now?
Days passed and no prospects called or emailed. Then, over a long holiday weekend, he got a message on his voice mail from some guy with an accent who said he was interested in taking a look. The guy on the cellphone also wanted to know if cash would be acceptable.
Cash? Fourteen thousand dollars cash? The accent, which he couldn’t recognize because the man was on a cellphone, and the question about cash made him uneasy.
So he called a friend who is a retired detective. Why would someone want to pay cash for something that costs this much? His friend said it’s usually because they need to launder money gained from something illegal. Buying the truck with money acquired through criminal activity and then selling it again would obscure how the money was gotten and what it’s source was. Where did you get the money? I sold a truck and here’s the receipt, okay? The retired detective friend said to insist on a cashier’s check or money order. If this was agreed to, then the buyer was probably okay.
As no one else had even asked about the truck, after the holiday weekend he returned the call to the guy who wanted to pay cash and he insisted on a money order or cashier’s check. It was agreed, as was the date and time on which the prospective buyer could come to the house and see the truck.
A few days later the prospective buyer showed up with another guy who was introduced as the son. Both men were affable and well-spoken and now he could recognize that their accents were Irish. Both were exceedingly pleased with the appearance of the truck and the father asked for a lower price because, he said, this would be his son’s first truck. The father suggested meeting later in the week at the bank so he could get a cashier’s check and the title could be notarized. A thousand dollars in cash was offered and accepted as a deposit. Before they left, the father also offered that, as he and his son were in the asphalt driveway paving business, they would be willing to repave our truck seller’s blemished driveway for a reduced fee.
Before the meeting at the bank an alarming article appeared in the local newspaper. Two Irishmen with British passports, which would indicate they were from that part of the United Kingdom referred to as Northern Ireland, were being sought for running an asphalt driveway paving scam. When their work was found to be lacking, they were usually nowhere to be found. In one alleged instance they had spoken in a threatening manner to a woman who was refusing to pay. Worst of all, apparently, these two Irishmen had overstayed their tourist visas and if found they would be deported. Who knew how bad the illegal Irish immigrant problem was?
He called his friend the retired detective again, telling him that he was now suspicious of his prospective pickup truck buyers, who in fact could be scammers, and worse yet, illegal Irish immigrants. He said he was firm in his intention to call the telephone number given in the newspaper to report the whereabouts of the two suspects. He felt it was his duty.
At this point his friend, who was his senior by a few years, gave him some stern and fatherly advice. Your obligation is to keep your family safe. Don’t do it. Do not call the authorities! Your first obligation is to your family. These guys know where you live. There are others, not just them. If they are former Irish Republican Army men who have turned to crime, they could be very dangerous.
He was torn about the right thing to do, but he decided to follow his friend’s advice and not call the authorities. He would go through with the sale so the two suspicious characters would be out of his life. He rationalized that he didn’t really know if these were the two asphalt-driveway-scamming illegal Irish immigrants written about in the newspaper article. He merely suspected that they might be, mainly because they were Irish. He wanted to be fair. Besides, it would be nice to sell the truck and these were his only near-term prospects. Meanwhile, in case they started thinking he was on to them, he would be especially alert around the house and try not to lose any sleep over this business. But he did.
The meeting took place at the bank on the appointed day and time. The title for the truck was notarized by a bank officer. Only the father attended. Since they were already at the bank and it was clear that the purchaser was ready to go through with getting a cashier’s check, our seller agreed to waive this provision and took payment in cash, which he deposited before leaving the bank. Goodbye truck. Goodbye to possible asphalt-driveway-scamming illegal Irish immigrants. Actually, they seemed like pretty nice guys. Being truckless and illegal Irish immigrantless brought him peace of mind.
About a year and a half later an interesting story appeared in the local newspaper. Federal and local law enforcement agencies were after some men believed to be part of an organized group of as many as 100 Irishmen who were in the United States on tourist visas and who were involved in an asphalt driveway paving scam. Proceeds from the scam were being used to buy and ship over $1 million in vehicles back to the United Kingdom as part of a much larger money-laundering scheme. Most of the vehicles were large American made pickup trucks. Two men, one 47 and one 25, had been arrested locally a little over a year ago, but they had gotten out of jail on bond and disappeared.