Milford woman bilked by con man 23 years ago moved on, but hasn’t forgiven or forgotten
Elizabeth Gregg had her heart broken and bank account drained by a con man 23 years ago, but she hasn’t forgotten — and she’s not letting the rest of the world forget it either.
Gregg has created a Facebook page, “Conned, but not Conquered,” for victims to share, get an encouraging message and draw from her own experience of being conned.
“I’ve accepted the fact this is not going to end until the day he dies or I die,” said Gregg, a Milford resident at the time of her ordeal. “I just can’t brush it under the rug.”
It was in 1994 after a six-week whirlwind romance that Gregg discovered the man she had fallen in love with was not famous Formula One race car driver Dr. Jonathan Palmer — as he told her — but actually British citizen Jonathan Kern, who she would later learn traveled the world posing as Palmer, rock stars and other famous people.
When she put the pieces together, Gregg pressed charges with Milford police, who have a longstanding warrant for Kern’s arrest. She wrote a self-published book about the ordeal, “I Fell in Love with a Con Man,” and she spread the word about Kern through the internet. She testified against him in a Paris court case involving another woman he had conned, helping lead him to conviction and jail time.
Her story of being wined, dined, romanced and conned was even featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” To this day, Gregg said she gets emails and phone calls when the episode airs.
But Gregg — who changed her name from Grzeszczyk because it was so difficult to spell and pronounce — is not relenting.
She is again putting the case into the spotlight with the Facebook page she hopes others who have been conned can find comfort, share information and it is her hope, keep others from falling victim.
Gregg said she feels there is a need for such a forum because the way in which cons are permitted to continue is that people don’t tend to speak up about the situation because they feel humiliated or are fearful.
“They may not feel strong enough or confident enough to speak out — but I am,” said Gregg, who says she is now in a healthy relationship.
Gregg’s experience with Kern not only broke her heart and killed her confidence, but also drained her bank account of some $15,000, leading to bankruptcy.
Kern, reached via email through his company in the United Kingdom, Shellshock Designs Ltd. wrote, “I think Ms Grzeszczyk really needs to get a life. Her accusations are exaggerated and fictitious and my family, colleagues and I are fed up to the back teeth of this attention seeker ....”
Kern’s original email was followed by a series of emails insulting the Register reporter and Gregg, including asking the reporter, “Haven’t you heard about fake news?” and “Donald Trump and EG in one country ... OMG !”
Referring to the massive body of news clips on the internet regarding Gregg’s case and others brought against him through the years, Kern wrote, “… Really cannot understand how this compulsive hag cons all you professionals in our ex-colony??????”
Milford police spokesman Mike DeVito confirmed there is an outstanding warrant from 1994 for Kern’s arrest on charges of felony criminal impersonation, second-degree forgery and second-degree larceny.
Although Kern was dismissive of Gregg’s claims in his email to the Register, he posted a video of himself on YouTube which broadly describes his exploits around the globe, “pretending to be a famous rock star or racing driver.”
Kern says in the video that he put it up for the world to see on the advice of a client and friend who read the material on the internet from Gregg and others and thought Kern should tell his side of the story.
Although Kern states in the video that what he did all those years was wrong, he appears to write most of it off as youthful indiscretion.
But he wasn’t so young during his weeks with Gregg — he was 40 — and turned 64 this month, according to his passport.
“The world was less complicated then and by pretending to be someone famous,” he had access to luxury cars, hotels and designer clothes, Kern says in the video.
With those items at his disposal, “It didn’t take long for beautiful women to come knocking at my door,” he says in the video. He never mentions the case involving Gregg.
Kern talks about how he was criminally charged and imprisoned in France for “obtaining by deception,” a Lotus automobile.
According to The Guardian newspaper, which interviewed him in jail, he contacted Lotus, claiming to be a magazine publisher and asked them for a car for a feature.
The day the car was delivered, he took it to the Belgian Grand Prix and five days later called Lotus to say it had been stolen from the car park, according to The Guardian article. He told the company he was flying to the U.S. and would call again in two days, but they never heard from him again, The Guardian article states.
“I ended up paying a very heavy price for what had started out as nothing more than a bit of fun,” he states in the video, saying Lotus was embarrassed and wanted to make “an example” of him. He said the case received a lot of publicity — he was even visited by a reporter in jail — because his story involved “fast cars, exotic locations and beautiful women.”
Gregg said in the Paris case, where she testified against him, he was found guilty in a case similar to hers involving a French woman, and was sentenced to three years in jail, serving 17 months.
Kern goes on to say in the video: “Some of the stuff on the internet is true, but most of it isn’t.” For example, Kern states, he was never on the run or in hiding — even 20 years ago.
He also says in the video that today he’s married, good with his family, runs a successful business now and that it’s possible to wake up one day, decide to change your ways and do just that.
Kern and Gregg met in 1994 while Gregg was on a business trip in Florida for Bayer Pharmaceuticals. She was sitting by herself at an outdoor cafe in South Beach when Kern approached, identifying himself as Palmer. Gregg, knew something about racing through her ex-husband, and asked if her suitor was “the” Jonathan Palmer.
He said, “yes,” answered a few questions correctly, and the web began spinning, she said.
Initially, Gregg questioned why the famous Formula One driver was interested in her — a regular woman from Milford — when he could date super models.
“I said, ‘Why me? I’m not a jet-setter.’ He said, ‘I’m tired of that. I want to settle down.’ He said he needed me — that pulled my strings, I wanted to help.”’ Gregg has recalled.
She said Kern was able to pull it off because he came from a multi-millionaire family and “he knew how to act.” He was charming and she loved the British accent, Gregg said.
After just a few days of romance, the man who said he was Palmer would return home to Milford with Gregg on her 39th birthday, presumably because they were so much in love and he wanted to build a life together.
But within six weeks, the whirlwind romance had turned into every woman’s nightmare.
Behind Hugo Boss clothes, fancy hotels, Jaguars and smooth talk was a con man who bilked women, his family, car dealerships, hotels and others through impersonating them, Gregg said. The Jonathan Palmer con was a favorite, but in his younger days, Kern had even roamed his native England as Mick Jagger, Gregg would learn.
Although Gregg had an intuition that something wasn’t right from the beginning, Kern always had a plausible answer. His stories of wealth tied up in overseas banks seemed plausible, and he even managed through his Palmer scam to have a Mercedes dealership deliver a car to Milford for his use.
By the time it all unraveled in mid-November of 1994, Kern had not only broken her heart, but also bilked Gregg out of $15,000 through use of her ATM card and other money he “borrowed” until his alleged money from England could be transferred. At some point, he reimbursed her $7,000 plus through a check at an Italian bank, but that bounced about a year later, leaving Gregg shattered financially.
Gregg declared bankruptcy, lost her job and moved to Massachusetts. Since then, she’s lived in other states, including Florida, Maine and California. Gregg said she regained confidence over the years to return to her profession in the field of clinical trials.
Gregg said she testified against Kern in 1998 on fraud charges in another case in Paris.
Gregg said she wrote the book years ago to keep the story alive for others who might be conned. In writing the book, Gregg recalled many details of her relationship with Kern by pouring through items she had saved, such as airline boarding passes, calendars, notes and old telephone bills, including 20 pages of calls made by Kern from her cell phone.
If he ever returns to the United States and is caught, police in Milford would arrest him, but have decided not to extradite him from abroad because of the cost.
The main photo on her new Facebook page is one of she and Jonathan Kern picking up a flashy car sent for his use as Jonathan Palmer when he was staying with her in Milford.
Kern’s name is liberally splashed on the Facebook page and among the posts are encouraging sayings, one specifically about being disrespected, and clips of Gregg’s appearances on media. One post that features a link to purchase Patty Hearst’s book on Amazon reads, “Being conned is a form of brainwashing. I found some definite similarities comparing Patty Hearst’s story to my own.”
One of her posts reads, “If more of us come forward with our stories, it will also help to educate others in what to watch out for, to learn to trust their gut instinct, and to hopefully prevent others from being conned.”
Gregg said she’s had some amazing feedback through the Facebook page, her book and through the internet from those who have been conned and she’s been able to offer emotional support.
Gregg said her story, “Shows that it doesn’t define you. It happened, but you can overcome it. It doesn’t have to be the end of your life.”
Gregg said she’s not consumed with the case at all and has a full life.
“I don’t check Facebook every day,” she said. “I just want it to be out there.”
Although Gregg had an intuition something wasn’t right from the beginning when Kern introduced himself, she didn’t follow that sixth sense.
The day after their first meeting at the cafe, she was to switch hotels. As she was waiting to check in, Kern appeared, came up to her and kissed her softly on the lips, she recalled. She was waiting for him to say he was checking in too, but instead, he wanted to stay with her. She thought, ‘Wow, here’s Jonathan Palmer and he wants to stay with me.’’’
“I didn’t want to be a prude,” she said. “I thought, is this the way the rich do things?”
After a dip in a hot tub that night, she was hooked.
“Everything moved so quickly, I was just off balance,” Gregg said.
It was Gregg who called off the relationship. When he left she started calling numbers that appeared on her cell phone bill and before long she learned he was a Jonathan — he used names other than Palmer as well — but not a Jonathan Palmer. In addition to using her ATM to withdraw up to $250 per day, he was also seeing other women during his daily trips to Manhattan.
Gregg said she spent the next three days crying on the couch. She eventually contacted Milford police, who learned through federal marshals that Kern had been charged with crimes in other parts of the world, she said.
After Gregg’s story first appeared in the Register in 1996, it received worldwide attention and was told on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. The real Jonathan Palmer was interviewed in that episode and told of how Kern resorted to fraud because he couldn’t obtain Versace clothes, expensive cars and women on his own accomplishments.
Also in the episode, a luxury hotel owner, David Colby, talks about how Kern — posing as Palmer — ran up a $3,000 bill for a five-day stay, including for restaurant meals and bottles of Champagne delivered to his room. Colby says in the episode that Kern managed to fool them all and never paid the bill.