The New York Daily News story below could never have happened at Bally. Mostly because the typical Bally member does not have thousands of dollars to be swindled. Hell, they can’t even afford the supplements at 75% off.
Enjoy your workout.
Con man posing as trainer took women at gyms for ride, swindled thousands
By Kerry Burke and Alison Gendar
Daily News Staff Writers
But Freddy Mercardo didn’t do a single day in jail for his swindle – and he’s already back in trouble, with another fitness buff telling cops she was taken for a pricey ride.
Mercardo spun quite a fantasy for members of Equinox, the New York Health & Racquet Club, and Club H Fitness.
He claimed to be a professional cyclist who rode for Ecuador in the Beijing Olympics – while he really grew up in the Bronx and didn’t even use a bike to get around town, victims and an acquaintance said.
He talked faster than Lance Armstrong pedals, allegedly taking in one woman who worked as a nanny for wealthy celebrities and stealing thousands from another.
“He said he was training for the Olympics. I had never met an Olympic athlete before. He talked about how he came from a wealthy South American family and was racing in China,” said Gretchen Regan, 58, a craniosacral therapist who met him at Equinox.
Regan, a former model, said she let Mercardo and his wife use her upper East Side apartment while she worked. She came home one day in January 2008 to find $23,000 worth of Tiffany and Cartier jewelry and $9,000 in designer duds missing.
Mercardo claimed his wife pawned the goods and begged Regan for $2,500 to “get them out of hock,” Regan said.
Regan never saw the money, jewelry or clothes again, and Mercardo was busted in September for grand larceny.
That’s a felony, but the Manhattan district attorney’s office let him plead guilty in May to misdemeanor larceny for seven days community service.
Regan was outraged by the sweet deal.
“Something is wrong with the system,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan DA said Mercardo was punished only for stealing the $2,500 – the part of the case they could prove.
Mercardo, who certainly has a flair for the dramatic, did his service with the nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, prosecutors said.
He had barely finished before there were new accusations against him.
Rebecca Flores, 52, who had worked as a nanny for director Martin Scorsese and members of the Getty family, got to know Mercardo during spinning classes at Equinox and Club H.
He came to her with a sob story – his wife threw him out – and she loaned him $1,200 for food and rent on June 1. He and the cash quickly disappeared, she said.
“That’s a truckload of diaper changes,” said Flores, who filed a police complaint against Mercado on July 22. The NYPD is investigating but has not been able to interview him yet.
When the nanny called Mercardo demanding her money, his wife warned her he had mob ties and knew where she lives, Flores said.
Flores also said Mercardo recruited two dozen Club H members to pay him $250 to take part in an 82-mile bike ride.
He claimed bike manufacturer Bianchi would give each rider a $3,500 bike. The trek never happened, said Flores, who paid the fee.
“I wanted to help, and now my life is threatened,” Flores said.
Mercardo denied it.
“It’s all lies!” he told the Daily News last week. “I’m fighting pancreatic cancer! I could die at any moment! I don’t care what they said.”
Managers of gyms where Mercado worked said background checks didn’t catch his misdemeanor conviction – and that he ran a good spinning class.
His former Brooklyn landlady, Fara Gayer, said Mercardo led her to believe he was a writer for The New York Times who taught gym classes for fun.
“He was nice – until he started missing the rent,” said Gayer, who said she was stiffed $3,500.