FRESH YARN presents:
I was walking to my car one morning when I spotted a UPS van pulling up to my apartment. I ran back to greet the driver
"Hey, I live in 1701. I'm Anthony Del Broccolo." The driver looked me directly in the eye and said, "No, you're not."
Well, that's curious, I thought to myself as I showed him my driver's license. I even opened my front door to prove that I indeed lived in 1701. The driver grew pale. He then confessed that he'd been delivering packages all week to someone else claiming to be Anthony Del Broccolo. The Fake Anthony even had a fake driver's license for identification.
My first thought was, Great. My identity's been stolen. My second thought was, Why would anyone want it?! It's not like it was doing me any good. Slightly confused, I opened the package from UPS to find an American Express card imprinted with a name I had never seen before: Matthew C.. Balabbo.
Oh my god, I thought, that's a really funny name. After repeating "Balabbo" many times for my own amusement, I called American Express.
As it turned out, Mr. Balabbo had called one week earlier to add his name to my account as a secondary cardholder. He was able to do so by verifying a disturbing amount of personal data, including my social security number.
Officially panicked, I asked the American Express people just how much Balabbs had charged on my credit. The answer was $13,000.
I drove down to the local police station, shaking with anger. An officer determined that, since the card was actually delivered to my address, Balabbo was able to steal my identity by stealing my mail. And stolen mail, he added, was something that fell under the jurisdiction of "The Postal Police."
What?! There's a Postal Police? Really?! I now knew what I had to do next: Create a TV series about The Postal Police! Starring Brian Dennehy. As Sgt. "Stamps" McGee.
I returned home and called the Postal Police, and was shocked when no one answered. I was even more shocked when no one answered the next twenty times I called.
Oh, sorry to bother you, Postal Police. You're obviously very busy trying to take down that Paper Boy in Sherman Oaks who's been stealing all the Victoria's Secret Catalogs from people's mailboxes.
I went to bed that night feeling helpless, violated, and confused. What else was this guy Balabbo planning to do? Was there anything I could do to stop him? Do the Postal Police, like, carry handcuffs?!
I didn't have to wait long for my answers. The next morning, the UPS guy knocked on my door with three more packages addressed to me, but obviously intended for Balabbo.
And that's when it hit me. This guy wasn't just stealing my identity, he was doing it right under my nose. The balls on this Balabbo!
I doubt the UPS guy even noticed, but at that moment I changed. I went from a mild-mannered, pasty-faced childrens' television writer, to an angry, pasty-faced vigilante. I now had one mission in life -- to take Balabbo down. And I was prepared to do anything to get my man even if it meant breaking a few rules and growing a beard.
I started my investigation by asking the UPS guy for a detailed description of the perp. Balabbo was approximately five foot nine, with short brown hair.
"Oh, so he looks like me?"
"No, sir," the UPS guy replied, "he's athletic looking."
What the fuck?! My pride may have been wounded, but I knew I had gathered some valuable info.
I wanted to start hunting down Balabbo immediately, but I needed to go to my stupid day job. I mean, how was I supposed to be a vigilante when I had to spend the next 10 hours writing comedy for tweens?!
Also, there was the annoying matter of calling all those merchants to undo the damage caused by the identity theft. Here's just a small sample of what Balabbo had done using my information:
And if all that wasn't scary enough, I opened one of the UPS packages to find 700 Euros. Now he was ordering foreign currency.
Jesus. What had the fake me gotten my fake self into? Was I an unwitting pawn in some complicated global conspiracy? Was Keifer Sutherland about to bust down my door and bring me into Counter Terrorist Unit?
Suddenly fearing for my own safety, I contacted the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. Agent Conroy assured me that I probably wasn't in any danger. "Probably" was probably not the word I wanted to hear just then. I could probably think of several better words to use in that instance, like, oh... I don't know... DEFINITELY? He also said there was nothing the FBI could do, as it's their policy not to pursue these cases unless the personal loss exceeds $500,000.
I hung up the phone scared, but even more frustrated that no one wanted to help me. And then I remembered:
Hey, you're a vigilante. You prefer to work alone.
All I had to do was get inside Balabbo's brain and stay one step ahead of him -- and I didn't need the FBI or the fakaktah Postal Police to help me do that.
Thankfully, I also had a major advantage. The fake Anthony was even dumber than the real one. And he was starting to get sloppy.
After I made a trip to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I found out that while renting the Ford F150 truck, he made the mistake of leaving his real phone number as an emergency contact.
Two weeks into the investigation, this was the big break I had been looking for. I started strutting around my apartment, all full of confidence and bravado -- until I looked out my window to see a guy about 5'9" tall, with brown hair, standing in front of a black, Ford F150. I immediately dove behind the couch to hide.
As I nervously peered back out the window, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was Balabbo -- the guy who was making my life miserable for the past few weeks -- and I was looking right at him! And he wasn't that athletic looking.
Part of me wanted to confront him. An even bigger part of me wanted to take a 5-iron and shove it up his ass sideways. But those would have been rookie mistakes. Sure, I'd get some temporary satisfaction, but I'd completely compromise my investigation and give away any tactical advantages I had already gained!
As I contemplated my next move, it dawned on me that he was probably out there waiting for UPS to deliver his Euros. And I had what he wanted. So, I decided to do a little role-playing and called the number he had left with the car rental place. His voice mail picked up, so I left a message.
"Hello, Anthoneee -- this is UPS we tried to deliver a package for you this morning. Please call us back at our regional office in Van Nuys to reschedule delivery." I left my phone number and hung up.
Okay, so, the odds were slim that he'd be stupid enough to call back, and yes, my accent was horribly racist, but I really wanted to nail this guy!
Later that evening, while sitting in a coffee shop, my cell phone started ringing. I recognized the number in my caller ID. Imagine the confusion on my fellow patron's faces when I answered, "UPS, how can I help you?"
Balabbo actually responded by saying, "Hi, this is Anthony Del Broccolo."
I tried my best to suppress my anger and sound like a legit UPS guy. "Um okay, well we uh have two delivery windows open on Monday, one between 9:00 and 12:00 and another between 2:00 and 5:00."
He took the 9:00 and 12:00. He clearly wanted his afternoon free to spend more of my money.
But then he made a monumental mistake. He asked if we could, instead, deliver the package to his girlfriend Stacy's house in Silverlake. Barely able to contain my glee, I wrote down Stacy's address, then told him that we'd see him Monday at her house between 9:00 and 12:00.
Now, for you civilians out there, I had just orchestrated something we detectives commonly refer to as a "sting." And now that the trap was set, I felt my job was done. It was time to leave a message for my friends at the bureau.
"Hey, Conroy, it's Del Broccolo. Listen, our man's expecting a delivery on Monday between 9:00 and 12:00. You think you can have your boys in place by 8:30?"
I was shocked to learn that Agent Conroy had no interest in participating in my sting! He explained that, while my detective work was impressive, the FBI couldn't arrest someone based solely on information gathered by an ordinary civilian.
Ordinary civilian?! Please. I'm a vigilante, goddamnit! Besides, I had already done the hard part! All the FBI had to do was show up, arrest the guy, and get the glory.
None of this mattered to Agent Conroy. He also strongly cautioned me against taking any further action on my own. I was devastated. All that hard work, and now Balabbo was going to get away with it?!
No way. Not on my watch.
I may not have had the power to arrest him, but I was going to make sure Balabbo knew that I beat him at his own game -- and if I scared him a little in the process -- even better. So, I decided to call him again.
"Yes, this message is for Anthony Del Broccolo. Hey Anthony, this is Anthony. Y'know, the real Anthony. Listen, I was talking to Agent Conroy at the FBI, and he wanted to know where you'd prefer to be arrested, outside of my house -- or at Stacy's. Also, we know your real name is Balabbo and that's really fun to say. Balabbo. Balabbo."
Not only did that feel incredibly satisfying, it also worked. From that point forward, Balabbo stopped using my identity, and I was quickly able to restore my credit to its pre-identity theft levels.
And then, just like that, it was all over. This thing -- this obsession that had completely consumed my life for weeks -- was gone. It soon became painfully obvious that having my identity stolen was the most exciting thing to happen to me in years. I loved every minute of it, to the point where I was actually rooting for Balabbo to keep going, just so I could continue playing vigilante!
But who knows, maybe it's not over. Maybe there are more Balabbos out there cutting a swath of fakeness and Balabboism throughout this great land. And it gives me some sliver of hope to know that one day, one of these other Balabbos will make me their next victim. The position's open!
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission