WALTER MILLER, 42, has not been apprehended. We had it wrong in the print edition of this week's AVA. He's on the loose. Miller has been identified as the man who opened fire on a pursuing police vehicle Monday night on the Ukiah side of the Boonville-Ukiah Road. He was a passenger in a '95 Ford Thunderbird driven by Christopher Skaggs. The two drove off from the police when the officer attempted to ask Skaggs about the absence of current registration tags on his vehicle. A high speed chase ensued, with Miller apparently leaning out the passenger side window of the Thunderbird to shoot at the police vehicle chasing them. Miller and Skaggs abandoned the car at milemarker 11 on the Boonville Ukiah Road where they fled into the woods. Skaggs, out of jail but awaiting trial on a high speed chase last year that resulted in an injury to a pursuing officer, was arrested Tuesday morning on South State Street, Ukiah, after a brief foot chase, but Miller, a state prison parolee, is still on the run. Miller and Skaggs are assumed to have committed a Potter Valley burglary that netted them five guns. (Late Wednesday we received an unofficial tip that Miller had been found and surrounded in another South Ukiah building and police were trying to “negotiate his surrender,” but we have not as yet confirmed this.)
BACK IN JANUARY, ANIMAL CONTROL took possession of three Laytonville horses on accusations that the animals had been mistreated. DA David Eyster said Monday he will not prosecute the owner. “Based on my review of the reports provided, I find there is insufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution. Without going into every single fact and evidentiary issue, I will note that there is at least a partial to full defense to the allegations of abuse provided by the ‘health limitations’ (also known as heart murmurs) of two of the three horses, as determined by the examining veterinarian. According to the vet, ‘older horses with heart murmurs are hard to keep weight on, and require extensive care.’ Additionally, the owner voluntarily signed over ownership of the three horses to Animal Control, a care and control decision made by the owner that shows that she was keeping the long term interests of the horses in mind in deciding what was best. Such decisions may be difficult for some people and, in this case, are circumstantial evidence showing a lack of general and/or special criminal intent.”
EXPERIENCED HORSE PEOPLE, including veterinarians, argue that heart murmurs often occur in starving horses because they are starving, not because they develop heart murmurs first.
CALIFORNIA WATCH, aka the Center for Investigative Reporting, has filed a Public Records Act request for the name of every County employee, job title, base pay, other pay, medical benefits, wages subject to Medicare, employer share of retirement cost, employee share of retirement cost paid by employer, deferred comp or other additional income, long term cost of disability, medicare, social security, and so on. Why California Watch has made the request is not known. KC Meadows filed a similar request some time ago and had a heckuva time getting the information, finally getting an unusable and jumbled pile of computer printouts. The County, since it’s publicly funded, should be forthcoming; better yet, it should provide this information on demand, in readable form, to any citizen requesting it.
EXCELLENT REPORTING by Linda Williams of the Willits News reveals that the seven Mendocino Coast persons arrested as part of a Kansas-based drug trafficking operation began their involvement when the Kansas group began, in 2007, to buy bulk Mendo bud for $1800 a pound. Ultimately, some 8,000 pounds of California marijuana was transported to Kansas. Sarah and James Soderling of Fort Bragg apparently organized the California end of the supply chain.
“THE GROUP,” Ms. Williams wrote, “used a variety of techniques to get the marijuana and cocaine to Kansas and to transfer the cash back to suppliers in California. Sometimes the pot and cocaine were shipped by FedEx or driven to Kansas in private vehicles with hidden compartments. Eventually these methods proved insufficient to supply the expanding Kansas marijuana trade. After several of the alleged conspirators purchased a Kansas repair shop they began shipping large crates of marijuana and cocaine from California to Kansas labeled as automotive parts. The same shipping company would then ship "automotive parts" crates filled with currency back to California. The largest documented cash crate contained $850,000…”
FEDERAL WIRETAPS and direct surveillance captured several meetings between the Soderlings and other conspirators. From their investigations into the Soderlings "through proffer interviews, business records and drug ledgers, investigators were able to identify Henry McCusker, Richard Smith, Jeffrery Wall, John Paul McMillan and Erin Keller as sources of supply of high grade marijuana in California," according to court records.”
“JAMES SODERLING also came to the agents attention when he received two packages in December 2011 at a Kansas location he was renting. Both packages were mailed from Fort Bragg through the US mail: one package contained 12.5 pounds of marijuana and one package had 7.3 grams of meth. Postal inspectors identified and opened these packages en route. Court documents allege these intercepted shipments were supplied by John Paul McMillan and Erin Keller.
McMILLAN AND KELLER allegedly joined the conspiracy starting in late 2010, according to court documents. “Keller and McMillan had a small marijuana grow in Mendocino, California; however, they were able to acquire large amounts of processed marijuana from other sources in California. McMillan transported approximately 40 pounds of high grade marijuana (street value $160,000) to Lawrence, Kansas in December 2010,” say court documents. Investigators have documented seven other trips to Kansas by the duo to allegedly pick up their cash proceeds.
McCUSKER, who is the only Mendocino County defendant not released on bail, was allegedly involved in the Kansas conspiracy since 2009. “McCusker is a grower of high grade marijuana, which he personally supplied to co-defendants. Since 2009, McCusker supplied co-defendants hundreds of pounds of high grade marijuana,” according to court documents. Court documents allege Smith and Wall were brought into the conspiracy by McCusker and they became regular suppliers of marijuana to the Kansas group. The last two marijuana shipments allegedly provided by these two men weighed 464 pounds and 222 pounds. The Kansas crew allegedly paid them $2,000 per pound.
PIE IN THE SKY THEATER Presents
A Pair Of John Mcnamara Comedies
Banned In Potter Valley*
Directed By Phil Baldwin
March 15, 16, 20, 22, 23
Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
Church & Oak streets, downtown Ukiah, CA
8:30pm, $10 General & $5 Students
advance tickets on sale at Mendocino Book Company
“Banned in Potter Valley” is, of course, a PR ploy for our March production of a pair of comedies by John McNamara. Yet one of these short plays, “Personal Effects,” after six sold out Potter Valley High performances in 1998 and 2000 under two administrations, was, indeed, disallowed for production in 2008 by a third administration. Since I consider it a tremendously funny and empathetic play, I determined to bring “Personal Effects” to Ukiah when I retired from teaching. That time is now, so we’re offering five shows March 15, 16, 20, 22, 23 at the Saturday Afternoon Club with the cast of Jesse Brennan, Elizabeth McKeon, Noah Taxis, Thea Sharp, Oscar Montelongo, Dominic Silva, Zephyr Girard, Gabe Suddeth, Ray Harrison. While most know me as a local politico and Ukiah city councilmember, few are aware I directed plays in Potter Valley for some ten years, enjoying work with unbelievably talented teens in our productions of Euripides’ tragedy, “Medea,” “Bad Seed” by Maxwell Anderson, and Aristophanes 2500 year old comedy, “Lysistrata,” which sold out two performances at Ukiah Players Theater in 2002. So what caused this one-act to be “banned” in Potter Valley? The scene is the living room of the Mallory's Midwestern home, where Kevin Mallory, a rather meek and malleable high-school student, who has a history of striking out with girls, has decided to give a party (hopefully an orgy) in his parents' absence. Encouraged by his more "sophisticated" friends, Artie and Bill, Kevin invites Eileen Sorenson, a new girl at school whom he'd like to get to know better and who, his buddies claim, is "hot" for him. However, all of Kevin's plans go quickly and hilariously awry, and the party descends into chaos as fights break out, advances are rejected and resentment mounts. As for the equally hilarious companion piece, “Present Tense,” it's the day of the high-school prom, and Norm Prescot, a love-smitten teenager, is beset with doubts. Will his girlfriend, Ann, keep their date or will she claim that she has to stay at the bedside of her aunt Gladys, who (she says) has been stricken with gallstones? As he waits, Norm's agonies multiply: Does Ann really have an Aunt Gladys? Or is she just using that as an excuse to pick up with her ex-boyfriend, Doug, a thick-headed jock, who is not only captain of the football, baseball and basketball teams but also Norm's obnoxious editor on the school newspaper? In a series of blackouts Norm's worst fears become real as we see all that is going on inside his head through wildly exaggerated daydreams depicting the fear and embarrassment of possible rejection by the girl he loves and the gnawing suspicion that she has not been faithful to him. When both comedies were originally produced by New York’s highly regarded Manhattan Punch Line theater company in 1982, the Village Voice noted that McNamara’s “writing is buoyant throughout” and the New York Post said he “skillfully works a simple, perhaps universal theme - a teenager’s insecurity about being loved - into a complex structure of Woody allen-type fantasies as hilarious as they are ingenious.” Before stepping into Potter Valley theater, I enjoyed bringing blues bands to our local Grange Hall #419 under the banner of “Hedonists for Liberty and Justice.” During this eight year run that paralleled the hey day of the Hopland Brewery, our shows included Richie Blue, Pat & Mark Ford, David Raitt, Stu Blank, Terry Hanck, and Starr James. The last HFLJ gig (featuring Earl Thomas) took place in 1995. As I was winding down my role as “the Bill Graham of Ukiah,” PVHS Principal Sharron Zoller asked me to “teach” a drama class there. “Who, me?” I responded, knowing zilch about live theater, but, weakly, I caved and went along with the plan. Thanks to Sharron, this brought me some ten fantastic years with young Potter Valley thespians, creating a drama program dedicated to entertaining not students but parents and other tax payers. Our selection of edgy, yet sensitive and ethical, scripts garnered us a reputation for satisfying our customers. This strategy, regardless of its popularity with our theater going public, led to the end of my directorial career in Potter when administrative prior censorship prevented a third production there of “Personal Effects.”
POINT CABRILLO Light Station State Historic Park Hosts
Whale Festival for Two March Weekends
MENDOCINO, Calif. — For a premier whale watching location along the Mendocino Coast check out the bluffs at Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. The lighthouse was built on a point of land extending westward into the Pacific Ocean so that the third order Fresnel lens would be most visible to shipping on the hazardous coast of Mendocino. This same attribute makes Point Cabrillo a preeminent location from which to watch the annual migration of the Gray whales from the lagoons of Baja Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Ocean.
An opportunity for family fun awaits visitors during Whale Festival 2013 at the Point Cabrillo Light Station, March 2 and 3, and March 16 and 17, 2013, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. In addition to a grandstand view of the annual Gray whale migration, visitors can see tidepool organisms without getting their feet wet by visiting the 250 gallon salt water aquarium at the Marine Science Education exhibit in the restored Blacksmith shop. Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association (PCLK) volunteer docents will help visitors spot whales, and illuminate Light Station history and local culture with presentations near the Lighthouse. A period museum showing how Lightkeepers and their families lived in the 1930’s will be open in the restored First Assistant Lightkeeper’s Residence.
Activities for children and families will include a life-size gray whale jigsaw puzzle as well as games led by PCLK’s Education staff. The Mendocino Coast Audubon Society will lead beginning bird identification walks in the morning each day of Whale Festival.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, our local lightkeepers, will offer lens tours for a donation as well as safe boating tips, equipment displays and more along with the U.S. Coast Station Noyo River.
Weather permitting, Docents will also lead walks to nearby Frolic Cove and relate the story of the Boston Owned Clipper Brig “Frolic”, wrecked off the cove in July 1850, bound from China to San Francisco with a valuable cargo of Chinese merchandise for the Gold Rush miners and their families.
The lighthouse gift shop will also be open with original artwork, fascinating books, and unique gifts. Hot drinks and cookies will be available for sale in the lighthouse lobby. Lunch from Julie’s Famous Food Cart will be available for purchase each day.
ABOUT GRAY WHALES
Every spring, Gray whales journey with their newborn calves from the protected lagoons of western Baja to their ancestral feeding grounds in the cold waters of the Bering, Chukchi and Arctic Seas. The whales migrating past Point Cabrillo belong to the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale population of roughly 18,000 to 23,000 individuals. These figures vary year to year, but represent a strong recovery of the population since attempts to ban hunting of the Grays were initiated by international treaty in 1937. The Eastern Pacific Gray whales pass by Point Cabrillo twice, on their southward journey from December to February, and again going north between February and May. Newly pregnant females lead the northward migration, followed by males, and the last to leave Baja are usually females with new born calves.
DIRECTIONS TO THE LIGHT STATION
The Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is two miles north of Mendocino and six miles south of Fort Bragg. Take the Point Cabrillo Drive exit from Hwy 1 and follow the signs. Festival activities are an easy half-mile walk from the parking area. Handicapped parking is available. A $5 per vehicle donation will be requested to support the PCLK’s educational programs. Bring warm, windproof clothing. We have binoculars to share. The Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is a unit of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Light Station is managed by the Point Cabrillo Lightkeeper’s Association under a concession contract with State Parks.
For a schedule of presentations and additional information, please visit www.pointcabrillo.org, or call the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce at 800 726-2780 or 707 961-6300.
WHEN SANTA’S A SOCIOPATH
by Kevin L. Hoover (Editor, the Arcata Eye)
ARCATA — Arcata may have had the world’s most spectacularly overqualified Santa Claus last December. Jolly St. Nick with his real wire glasses, snowy mane and joyous “Ho, ho, ho!” was also a high-powered author commanding six-figure fees, and a former Secret Service agent and U.S. Marshall with deep connections inside the federal government. An experienced Navy fighter pilot who survived dogfights with MiGs over the Atlantic Ocean, he had retired to Humboldt, where he continued to act as a federal operative, known to and well-respected in local law enforcement circles.
Santa had overcome severe health setbacks, and was living with a bullet in his head. He had “kicked cancer’s ass” through abdominal surgery during which an 11 pound tumor was removed. He brushed off a mini-stroke which had paralyzed half his face, and came through surgery for a brain aneurysm a few months later at Stanford Medical Center, during which two Secret Service observers sat in, lest he disclose national security information under anesthesia.
These and other epic life experiences were related to his associates by John Post, popularly known as Johnny Berrypicker, a genial, flamboyant mover and shaker who occupies a radiant spot in Arcata’s social/activism firmament.
Until last week, Post’s Facebook profile listed his educational history as including a doctorate in Politics and International Relations from U.C. Berkeley, where he also studied cultural anthropology. This on top of his double Master’s in anthropology and cultural anthropology from the University of Notre Dame, plus, said his online “Linked in” profile, a Bachelor of Science degree in Theology/Philosophy from the University of New Mexico. His Facebook profile also stated that he speaks French, Spanish, Old English, Old Norse, Scythian and “Proto-Indo European.”
The Linked in profile also lists Post as founder and CEO of a handful of small companies, including Humbrella, described as “bring[ing] light industry/manufacturing to Humboldt County, USA, employing local people and keeping American dollars in America, Humboldt dollars in Humboldt,” plus Himminbjorg Publishing and his Santa Claus business.
The Other John Post
Post’s colorful life of challenge, achievement and adventure — seemingly enough to populate several people’s lives — is only part of his considerable legend. All the while, available to anyone with a computer, was an alternate universe with John Post at its center. As has become well known to many of Post’s former friends and lovers, the Most Interesting Man in Arcata has an equally vivid, but not so wholesome, legacy on the Internet.
A book titled Controversial New Religions by James R. Lewis describes an Odinist-based religion and racist propaganda center called “Wotansvolk” which was active in the 1990s. The group did broad outreach to penitentiaries, preaching a cocktail of white racism and “occult National Socialism.” It was founded by David Lane, founder of the racist group The Order and a participant in a hate-based murder.
Administration of the group was transferred to Post in 2002, according to the book.
A June 23, 2003 Napa Times story tells of Post and his then-wife, Monica, having operated a related white supremacist publishing house called “14 Words Press.” The company’s name invokes a popular white supremacist slogan coined by Lane, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
The Posts told the paper they were carrying on with the spiritual component of Wotansvolk, which they called the Temple of Wotan. Despite having the same name as one of Lane’s books, the couple said their new spiritual order was divorced from its predecessor’s racism. Their new National Prison Kindred Alliance was, like Wotansvolk, doing outreach to some 11,000 prisoners who follow the ancient Nordic religion of Asatru with a newsletter put out by their Himminbjorg Publishing company.
In the Napa Times story, Post, who described himself as a “allsherjargothi” in the new church, relates serving 13 years for unarmed robbery in Florence, Colorado. That’s where ADX Florence, a supermax prison housing extremely dangerous inmates is located. Held there are members of the Aryan Brotherhood, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only convicted 911 plotter. Post said his prison outreach was being coordinated with state and federal authorities to fight recidivism among inmates.
One of Lane’s racist cohorts, Ron McVan, offered a different perspective on Post’s endeavor. In a June 23, 2008 online screed titled, “Betrayal,” he condemns Lane’s former wife, a woman named Katja, as a “con artist” who stole his inventory of self-published books and Odinist artifacts from him.
The embittered McVan wrote, “After making quite a mess of things with a few movement oppurtunists [sic] she settled on a guy who just happened to be a con artist equal to herself if not better. His name was John Post, a slickster extraordinaire, who had been released from prison not long before, for armed bank robbery, serving over 10 years. He gave her his pitch that if he could load up his 23 foot U-haul truck with my books and merchandise he would give her a thousand dollars up front and pay her the remainder later. She bit, and he made off with the lion’s share of my books and never paid her or anybody, least of all myself a red cent.”
McVan said Post’s involvement with Odinism was artificial and profit-based — a fancy means of marketing the allegedly stolen merchandise. Filled with a sense of injustice, the white supremacist wrote,
“John Post and his wife and partner in crime Monika, formed a bogus 14 Word Press and started selling off the stolen merch and raking in the cash. This same pseudo operation was to later become known as the NPKA (National Prisoner Kindred Alliance) or Wyrd’s Way/Himmingborg Press. After a couple years his deceitful ways of doing business and trying to portray himself as an Aryan activist, it all started to catch up with him. In that he was calling his bogus operation 14 Word Press and selling my books, products, artwork, articles and poetry most just assumed that he was connected with me and everything was cool... At the same time he had been ripping off scores of prisoners by taking their money while not sending them their merchandise orders. When he ripped off the Odinic Rite, they filed charges against him and he was soon returned to Soledad Prison, but released again after only a few months behind bars. He is currently back in operation again and in his new periodical titled Whispers [in which] he still espouses that Wotanism is open to all races creeds and homosexuals. His current catalog still lists my articles and he also is selling some of my remaining merchandise.”
Humboldt Welcomes Post
An affable, portly man with a wry affect and a contagious zest for life, Post has been popular figure in Arcata. He moved to Humboldt in the late 2000s and quickly attained position in Arcata’s meritocratic social structure.
He told friends that he had a traumatic divorce, with Monica leaving him for best friend. He’d been screwed out of book deal millions, went into a daze for months or years and “wound up” here with no memory of his journey.
A professional case manager at the Arcata Endeavor, he augmented his storied past with a colorful present. Post became an Arcata Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, competed twice for Rutabaga Queen as Princess Berrypicker, and formed his own Kinetic Sculpture competition squad, Team Berrypicker. he also served on the board of the North Coast Resource Center.
Post’s Linked in profile is festooned with glowing encomiums from local individuals with whom he worked. “Truly a delight to work with,” wrote Dawn Davis. “He has a big heart, and is truly goal oriented and is grounded to the community needs.” “John and I worked together while I was writing a feature story for the Arcata Eye on the North Coast Resource Center, or NCRC in Arcata,” wrote Sharon Letts. “He is smart, dependable, and helped immensely on coordinating staff and locations while working on the story.”
Not all locals remain in Post’s thrall. Quite the opposite — a growing number of former associates cast him as a con man, compulsive liar, grifter and even a sociopath. Their stories are largely anecdotal, lack hard evidence and can’t be proven or disproven. Post is not facing any known prosecution. Yet, the rueful stories of one-time friends and romantic interests are startlingly consistent in their descriptions of Post’s conduct.
Repeated efforts to review the allegations with Post were unsuccessful. Reached Friday, he said he would be call when available Saturday, but never did. Subsequent calls were not taken.
Matters Of The Heart
As successful as he was with Navy and Secret Service careers, Post is also lucky in love — that is, if sheer volume is the only measure.
Five women, three of whom are local, offer similar stories of being swept off their feet by the questing adventurer, only to have things end badly amid lost money and lies. They have begun to make contact and compare experiences with each other.
Some are now riven with feelings of humiliation, having willfully fallen for Post’s contrived legend and wild braggadocio. Other of the exploited women have passed into the anger stage, channeling their energies into research on Post’s background and digging up much of the above information.
Unfortunately, they did so after the fact. In retrospect, they say, the red flags — the astounding career claims, conquering multiple life-threatening diseases, the purported wealth that never seemed to materialize — are obvious.
For the women he pursued, Post painted glowing fantasy scenarios of the high life, promising world travel and a life of ease on $6,500 monthly retirement income with a seasoned, experienced ex-fed turned hippie, a published author and popular man-about-town in Humboldt County.
One of the women became increasingly skeptical as the relationship wore on. “As Post bombarded me with progressively more impressive declarations of purported credentials, the concept arose of ‘outlandish’ and ‘needs vetting out at the earliest opportunity,’” she wrote in an e-mail message.
Still, she hung in with him, even when the embroidery became too garish to ignore. “I used to think Post was just a Walter Mitty type, enhancing a lackluster life with a fantasy list of experiences, accomplishments and impending good fortune,” the woman said.
Eventually, the ever-more preposterous claims became too much to bear. “After a few weeks of progressive incredulity, I disengaged... due in part to my long, long list of Things That Don't Add Up.”
One woman not reticent to openly discuss Post is the one who says she is still married to him, Sheri Silvernale.
In 2009, Silvernale picked up a hitchhiker. It was Post, who quickly glommed onto the single woman. “He said he was recovering from a 20-year relationship,” she said. “He said we were destined to be together.”
They were soon wed, but within six or eight months in, her suspicions began to mount when she caught him sexy-chatting with other women on Facebook, arranging dates that were to occur on nights she was working.
Confronted with the issues, Post became “physically and verbally abusive,” she said. But his personal tragedies, rolled out at key moments, tugged at her heartstrings, ameliorating her instinctive urge to disengage.
Eventually, she said, Post forged $5,000 in credit card checks which he stole from her mail in her name, of which $1,200 worth cleared. “After that, I knew he was a con man,” Silvernale said.
After the two separated, she became aware of Post’s practices, and that she wasn’t the first woman to fall for the elaborate spiel. “This is what he does,” Silvernale said. “He’s very wicked. I can’t believe he didn’t go to jail.”
Since their separation, she said, Post has boldly contacted her again, asking for money — twice. The first time, he had cancer and needed funds. Silvernale gave him nothing.
The second time, “He said his daughter had died and that he needed money,” she said. “It was a bunch of horseshit.”
Another of Post’s Facebook pages pretended to be be Silvernale herself, even though she doesn’t use the social media site. “I tried to get it off Facebook, but they don’t care,” she said.
Meanwhile, a woman named Annie Macy sent then-NCRC Director John Shelter a copy of an El Dorado County marriage certificate, which shows that she and Post were betrothed May 20, 1996. On it, Post lists his occupation as “political activist” engaged in “environmental protection.”
Contacted last Friday in Southern California, Macy said her warnings about Post’s predatory nature fell on deaf ears.
She said she had met Post while he was living in a San Francisco halfway house and canvassing on behalf of the Sierra Club. “I was divorced after 24 years, and totally gullible,” she said. “I didn’t really have anything, and he was so friendly.”
They married, but soon, she became aware of Post’s tendencies. He told her he had been Top Gun at Miramar Naval Air Station and had also survived a major accident.
“His need to be important is just as important as taking money,” she said. “He just loves to be the center of attention.”
But money remained one of Post’s avid interests. “I found numerous envelopes which were addressed to the Sierra Club,” she said. “He would take the donations and cash the checks. He did do that.”
When she asked him about the envelopes, he told her that he was a CIA agent doing investigative work.
Macy said she found out that Post was robbing banks, both in Sacramento and Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was again imprisoned. This could not be verified by press time.
She said Post, posing as a film financier, had defrauded other individuals. She said he created a fake Facebook page where he posed as an attorney, and that the bogus attorney sent her messages assuring her that Post was “for real.”
Macy had the marriage annulled. She isn’t surprised at his Humboldt-area activities, which follow his well-identified pattern.
“He just loves to be loved and be the center of attention,” Macy said. “He is a sociopath.”
These and other women embittered by their involvement with Post are no dummies. They’re intelligent and otherwise discerning. But they appear to have fallen prey to the time-tested methodology of the con artist — identify an emotional need or vulnerability, then say whatever what the mark wants to hear with absolute, unwavering conviction.
Not every woman fell for Post’s rap. Said another local professional woman who had not been looking for love, “When I first met him and heard about the secret agent stuff, I thought, ‘This guy cannot be for real,’” she said. “I thought he was a pathological liar. He gave me the creeps.”
Post has at least two daughters, one of whom is said to have cut off all contact with him. She, according to former associates, is the one who he claimed had died. But he apparently offered different people different causes for her death — cancer and a vehicle accident.
However, the dead daughter’s Facebook page is still online and showing routine, current activity. Some of the people Post had told of her death are relieved to hear that his daughter is alive, and not a cancer or car accident victim.
Another woman claiming to have been ill-used — with no romantic involvement, just leveraged to produce cash — is Lois Cordova. A careworn woman who uses a cane and moves with difficulty, Cordova lived for 13 years and raised three children in an Indianola-area home. Though modest, Cordova took pride in her mobile home, installing a permaculture garden with the help of her son. She was preparing the homey quarters to receive her 80-year-old mother, who was to live out her years there with her daughter and granddaughter.
Cordova worked at the former North Coast Resource Center (NCRC) along with “JP,” a term used to distinguish Post from then-Director John Shelter. She made just $14 an hour, but enjoyed helping indigent folks until she was laid off in May, 2010 as the NCRC’s funding dried up. She went on unemployment, did odd jobs gardening and housekeeping, but wasn’t able to make the $403 monthly mortgage payment.
In Dec., 2010, Cordova’s son died in a vehicle collision in Eureka.
In Nov., 2011, she stopped paying her mortgage. In Feb., 2012, she cobbled enough money together for a partial payment and called Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.
“They wouldn’t accept partial payment,” she said. “They wanted the full $1,200.”
Cordova reluctantly asked her mother for assistance, and she agreed to make the $1,200 payment. But the mortgage company wouldn’t accept a check from a third party, and demanded that the $1,200 be wired to it directly. That would have required the octogenarian woman to walk through downtown Berkeley with a wad of cash and manage the wire transfer. It wasn’t going to happen.
At this point, her former workmate and now knight in shining armor, John Post, came to Cordova’s rescue. “He said, ‘I have a lawyer. Let me take care of this house,’” Cordova said. “He said he had [Third District Supervisor] Mark Lovelace and [Eureka attorney] Peter Martin in on this.”
Post’s benevolent assistance involved soliciting donations to make Cordova’s mortgage payments. He apparently did so, but it’s unclear whether any money reached the mortgage company.
According to one of Cordova’s friends, “I wired a payment of cash given to me by JP supplemented by my account with wire fees charged to my account. About four days later the payment was returned/refused to my account (more fees) and I wrote JP a check for his investment of cash. Not sure of the exact amounts/dates... but I want to say it was at least $2,000 and it was a couple of weeks before you were evicted.”
“He told me my mortgage was paid by anonymous donors,” Cordova said. One day last summer though, she came home to find an eviction notice on her door. She said Post told her, “Don’t worry about it.”
Then another notice appeared, specifying Sept. 13 at 6:01 a.m. as the date that sheriff’s deputies and mortgage company representatives would show up to take possession of her home.
“It’s a paperwork glitch,” she said Post assured her. “Don’t worry, it’s paid.”
“So I’m sailing along, thinking things are OK,” she said. Cordova continued to serve with Team Berrypicker, “It’s the least I could do, since he’s doing all this for me.”
On Sept. 13, Cordova got an unusual and urgent early-morning Facebook message from Post. She says it was “engineered to get me out of the house so I was not there to learn what he had and had not done the day the Sheriff came and locked the door on me.” From Facebook:
September 13, 2012
3:35am Johnny BerryPicker
If you are up, pack for being at my house for four days. Bring all crafting stuff. I will pay/barter for work from you. Will pick you up at 5:45 am
3:37am Lois Cordova
I HAVE A HOUSE GUEST!!!
I have paint and clay all over!!! what the heck is up all of a sudden ??? AND I am trying to find help to get a washer and dryer in here I will lose if I can't get it moved ASAP from just 2 doors up...what is up???
3:43am Johnny BerryPicker
I need you
3:45am Lois Cordova
I can come in this am but I can't just leave for 4 days...
3:46am Johnny BerryPicker
K ans why not?
3:46am Lois Cordova
I HAVE to get that washer in here or lose it...and I can't just suddenly abandon Betty-who is actually still out...call me so we can make this work...
5:49am Lois Cordova
so please tell me that it is totally coincidence that you suddenly needing me at 6am today has nothing at all to do with the “repossession” notice that names 6:01 as the time everything will be taken...??? I just realized the date and stomach flew to throat...
5:50am Johnny BerryPicker
5:51am Lois Cordova
5:53am Johnny BerryPicker
On my way brat.
After whisking Cordova away for the day, she said that that evening, Post gave her two pieces of bad news in quick succession — that she had been locked out of her house with just the clothes on her back, and that he had testicular cancer. The lockout, he assured her, was just another “paperwork glitch.”
“So I feel bad for him and am distracted from what is going on with me,” Cordova said. Nonetheless, Cordova and her then 15-year-old daughter were then homeless.
It turns out there really was a paperwork glitch, but not as Post described. Cordova found out later that deputies had shown up to implement the initial eviction notice, but that Post intercepted them.
Lovelace said that far from any long-term, systematic rescue effort, he hadn’t known about the eviction matter until Post called him the night before, saying he was scrambling to save Cordova from eviction.
Lovelace looked into the matter, and found that the eviction papers had incorrectly specified Cordova as a renter, though she was the owner of the home (but not the land it was on). That was when the second eviction notice was drawn up.
Contacted to verify his alleged involvement in the rescue effort, attorney Peter Martin said he was not free to comment on the matter, having no permission from those involved.
Cordova said Post continued to beg and borrow money from friends to pay the outstanding debt, but now, she doesn’t believe any of it went to the mortgage company.
Meanwhile, she had lost nearly all of her life’s possessions, save for the few items her daughter and friends could salvage from the dumpster.
Cordova’s daughter, Jolene Card, tried to figure out what had happened, and contacted Post via Facebook:
October 8, 2012 8:21pm Joelene Card
I need to know who the lawyer is and the number, and I need any documentation of payments and so forth because what they told ME on the phone is that they've had no contact and no payments for months now. I told them that you were in contact with them, and that there was a lawyer and judges and they told me to produce proof. They ARE clearing out Mom's garden. It's gone already, they ARE powerwashing her house and clearing her yard and taking things and putting them into a dumpster. I can verify all of these things. I was there. They only initially let me in to grab my brother's ashes. Can you imagine? Can you imagine frantically searching a house for your brother's ashes and not knowing where they were or what they looked like, they gave me 15 minutes. It was a panic attack only second to the one of hearing his passing. After the day unfolded it turned into sheer stress and you were nowhere to be reached and I REALLY needed the paperwork. Or a lawyer... it was difficult to say the least. I only have the number a repo worker. Don't know what to do or where to go next.
9:26am Johnny BerryPicker
Just got a new phone and have been trying to find out what the heck happened. At this point, I am regretting ever getting involved and trying to help. When I return I will see what can be done, but feel betrayed by Vanderbilt and want my money back. If 16 other people were not dependent on me in an out of state situation, I would have returned and seen what I could do. It's very
9:26am Johnny BerryPicker
I'm not the villain in this.
“This is the last we heard from him, at all,” Cordova said. “There was never any money that went to Vanderbilt. Best we can decipher is that he was living off of his money juggling... he refused to produce any proof he had done anything to anyone, then told lies to the team about why I was slandering him... this man needs to be kept away from the rest of humanity.”
She said Post had promised her that Team Berrypicker wouldn’t depart for last October’s Great Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race in Washington state until she was back in her home. But he did, vowing to fix things when he got back. That didn’t happen, and when she posted complaints about her situation on his Facebook page, he remarked, “Now I suppose you want MORE money from me,” and eventually blocked her.
“$65,450,” wrote Cordova in an e-mail message. “THAT is what my mom and I are out... that is the financial loss to us... have no idea what dollar amount would go on to her loss of a place in which to retire and spend time with her surviving grandchildren and great grand children or the hours she and I intended on spending in that now destroyed garden...nor the loss to me of the ability to still ‘be’ with my son in the garden he put so much effort into creating with me and surrounded by his belongings... inner turmoil is boiling over all of this... the immensity of all of this that I was avoiding confronting because of the intensity of the injury is coming out in intense shaking now. I am stunned over and over and over.”
Cordova later learned that Post told members of Team Berrypicker that Cordova was “crazy,” and that her unfounded complaints had hurt the team. “That bullshit cost me a sponsor,” he reportedly said.
Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture Grift
So it was off to Port Townsend for Team Berrypicker last October. Photos from the team’s Facebook page show a merry crew, all a-smiling around their glorious sculpture, Hoosier Daddy.
But trouble was afoot. For one thing, Post had told the team that all costs had been covered, thanks to a sponsorship from Nike. Team member Bobby Olson knew that wasn’t true. “If Nike was sponsoring us, we’d be wearing Nike shoes, Nike shorts, Nike hats,” he said.
Not only were costs not covered, it turned out that Team Berrypicker hadn’t paid the race’s $176.80 entrance fee. Somehow, though, the team competed, and even earned the “Best Song” and “Sand Crab” awards.
When it was time to leave Port Townsend, the team’s $960 bill at the family-owned Waterstreet Hotel had to be settled. Hotel co-owner Dawn Stetlow said that as the team packed up outside, Post told her, “We’ll be right in.”
It was not to be. Team Berrypicker hit the road, bill unpaid. “That’s the first time it’s ever happened,” Stetlow said.
She tried to charge the credit card which Post had supplied for a security deposit, but it wouldn’t authorize. She said she then spent three weeks trying to locate Post and collect the debt. “I tracked him down and got the runaround,” Stetlow said. “He told me that the check had gotten lost in the mail, and that he had tried four times to wire it.”
She finally received payment, but “it was a nightmare,” she said.
Stetlow learned that the race organizers hadn’t been paid the race fee. “I felt bad that I got my money and they never got theirs,” she said. “I gave them a donation for half the fee.”
Needless to say, Post won’t be lodging at the Waterstreet Hotel anytime soon, or actually, ever again. The team had made a reservation for the next race, but Stetlow said it was “scratched.”
“He definitely isn’t welcome back,” Stetlow said. “It was a mess.”
But where did the hotel money come from? It turns out it was another one of Post’s trademark borrowing-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul arrangements.
Two weeks after the race, team member Richard Chase said Post asked him for a check for roughly $960, made out to another person. It was described as only a fallback option, to be used “just in case.”
Chase, literally a team player, stepped up. “I love the team and the people in it,” he said. He described Post as “very charismatic,” and said he felt terrible about the death of Post’s daughter.
Days later, another team member told him, “I just found out you paid the hotel bill. Thanks.”
“I was less than thrilled,” Chase said. But it wasn’t the first check he’d written for Post. He’d supplied a $6,000 check to fund the team’s Rutabaga Queen participation, on a promise that he’d be paid back $7,000. Then there was another $2,000 for the team’s trip to Corvallis.
“He’s into me for about $10,000 altogether,” Chase said.
He said arrangements were made for Post to pay him back in installments, as Post was to be receiving $6,000 government checks on certain dates. But when Chase would contact Post on the specified date, he said, “There was always a ‘glitch,’” and no repayment ever materialized.
“The promises were never delivered on,” Chase said. “I don’t think I’m ever getting my money back. I feel like I’ve gotten a $10,000 lesson.”
Smells Like Team Spirit
Back in Humboldt, Post and Olson cohabitated in a large, Victorian-style home at 295 Hillsdale St. in Eureka. It was one of two homes Post told friends he owned “free and clear,” the other being a home in Trinidad with ocean views.
Post charged Olson $350 per month in rent for a bedroom, plus utilities for a total close to $500. He charged another roommate $400 a month.
In December, the house’s electrical power was cut off. Post told them it was a “problem with the junction box.”
“I knew it was bullshit,” Olson said. “It didn’t add up.”
In January, the other roommate discovered two “pay or quit notices” stating that $750 in monthly rent hadn’t been paid since September. The documents said there had been previous notices. “We never saw any of them,” Olson said. “It was pretty shocking.”
Confronted with the notices, Post told the roommates, “Don’t worry about it.” It was clear that Post had been using their rent and utility money for living expenses — or to pay off debts from other rolling scams.
The roommates soon found other lodgings. Olson said that appallingly, after they moved out, he learned that Post had mentioned to other prospective tenants, “Hey, I have some rooms available.”
“Can you imagine?” Olson said in awe of Post’s audacity. “That son of a bitch was going to take their money just so he’d have beer and cigarette money and they’d just be locked out.”
The house has is listed online as having been foreclosed, and appears never to have been in Post’s name. The roommates are trying to get the washer-dryer out of the house, which they say was scammed from a rental company.
Techno-Glitches And Medical Miracles
Whenever Post is caught in a whopper, or a non-payment, or a broken commitment, he has fallen back on a variety of tactics to patch the problem. One is pleading technological trouble — typically, that his phone doesn’t work. The breakdowns uncannily seem to occur just when he is most urgently needed to address some dire turn of events.
Yet his abundant texts continue uninterrupted. “I’ve never known anyone so addicted to texting,” a friend said. Post usually packed two cell phones and would text on both in nearly simultaneous fashion.
Another tactic is attributing the misdeed to some secret government mission he was carrying out. Even Post’s prison time was supposedly an undercover assignment.
When sympathy is required, Post announces a catastrophic illness. The year 2011 was an especially difficult one for the robust-looking Post.
On July 18 of that year, he posted a lengthy Facebook note describing cancer which was diagnosed in February had spread from his lung to his stomach and liver. But, he said, he was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments which had forced the liver and lung metastases into remission. And he was about to have surgery for the stomach tumor.
Though he complained of the “somewhat debilitating” side effects of the chemo and radiation treatments, Post showed no visible impairments and competed vigorously in that year’s at ’N’ Rouge Drag Comedy Softball Game, just three days before his surgery. He also continued to smoke cigarettes, and still does.
The note is followed by expressions of love and support from friends. Some friends say he described having an 11-pound abdominal tumor removed.
The operation, conducted at Stanford Medical Center, was successful. From Facebook:
Johnny BerryPicker September 14, 2011
alive, safe and woozy after successful surgery. film @ 11
Johnny BerryPicker OMGs! Just got woke up for meds and 2 ICU nurses are there and ask me if I'm mormon. Huh? “Well you proposed to both of us when you were coming out of anethesia!” Oops!
Post had “kicked cancer’s ass,” as he later put it, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
In November, 2011 he suffered a mini-stroke which rendered his face partly paralyzed. He told a friend, “can't move half my face.” But just two days later, he wrote, “everything fine.” He mentioned no follow-up concerns or residual symptoms, and never mentioned the stroke again.
Two months later, Post was again under the surgeon’s knife. He had developed a brain aneurysm, and went back to Stanford. The invasive brain surgery was conducted via a three-eighths inch hole drilled into his skull behind an ear. The operation was successful and he was again spared death.
But when he returned to Humboldt, the surgery entry point had migrated. He described a three-eighths inch hole on the back of his head, underneath his ponytail, which he preferred not to display.
He’d also come through the abdominal surgery utterly unblemished. When a friend asked him where his scar was, Post replied without missing a beat that the operation had been done using a form of “microsurgery,” which leaves no traces.
During one of Post’s supposed surgeries, a friend contacted Stanford Medical Center to try and reach him, But the center said it had no patient named Post. The friend then texted Post, who said there was no room number because he was being treated in the “Federal Suite.” This, he said, is a secure medical facility reserved for federal agents, the existence of which is not openly acknowledged.
Among the hush-hush Federal Suite’s amenities are special “minders,” there to ensure that the anesthesia-woozy patient doesn’t blab national security secrets. But Post’s two minders didn’t prevent him from proposing to the attending nurses.
What Else Is There?
In conversations with his alleged victims, they allude to still more individuals and institutions which may have been predated by Post. More fiancés, wives and scams are strongly suspected, but aren’t well identified and couldn’t be tracked down before press time.
One murky incident is the alleged theft of funds from an elderly Trinidad resident named John Waters. Waters didn’t return calls, but his brother, Jim Waters, confirmed that Post had ripped him off.
What little is known is that two or three years ago, Post came into contact with Waters, possibly via his position at the NCRC. Jim Waters’ memory of the incident is vague, but he recalls that Post was supposedly trying to set up a “recovery home for veterans” to help mainstream them back into everyday life.
John Waters had provided Post with unspecified funds to establish the home, but, “Post ran off with the money,” Jim Waters said. “He did that to my brother.”
John Shelter disputes the story. “That never happened,” he said. “Mr. Berrypicker did a good job of placing four people. He had no access to any kind of funds.”
Asked about Post’s incredible resumé, Shelter said that “I never really put too much value in it. I only know what I see.”
Shelter said that his experiences with Post were positive. “JP never did anything that I know was bad,” Shelter said. “He didn’t steal any money that I know of.”
An anonymous, unverified post in the online Ripoff Report states that Post is a con man, offering a summary consistent with his behavior in Humboldt County: “This excuse for a human being has served 13 years in prison for offences ranging from Bank Robbery to conning innocent victims out of their hard earned money. He says he is a Tax Consultant and takes money from people to do their taxes and then he disappears. He is also a bigamist, being married to various women at the same time, taking money and possessions from them and then disappearing. He uses various fake profiles on Facebook pretending to be people he is not, conning women out of money and making them believe he can help them...”
A Hasty Apology
Last week, numerous friends received a seemingly personal, but identical text, all containing the same message and typographical errors: “Hi. Tough times ahead for me. I want to personally apologize to you for my failings, any embarassment [sic] I may have caused you, as well as disappointment. I will always treasure you as a friend whom I could confide in. The Berrypicker is a good guy. I wish you nothing but joy, fulf9illment [sic], great health and much glory.”
His “Wannabe Rutabaga Queen Berrypicker” page on Facebook bears the message, “Due to a series of unfortunate incidents and my own failings, I will not be running for queen this year. I apologize for any disappointment I may have caused in this. I wish you all good fortune, great health and much prosperity. i'll be back in 2014, I think. :)”
Post has informed some friends that he has contracted testicular cancer. His Facebook page photo shows someone walking toward a bright white light.
Survivors Of John Post
Now that Post is apparently out of the local picture, and with his alleged victims beginning to network, the full breadth and audaciousness of his falsity is becoming apparent. Fresh stories are bubbling up daily. And in retrospect, it all seems so obvious.
“Some of his tales didn’t add up,” Olson said. “Navy fighter pilot, Secret Service, various Master’s degrees and books he had written. I don’t know how one person would have time to do all this shit.”
He didn’t. The University of New Mexico’s registrar said that the school has no record of Post attending, and that in any case, it doesn’t offer Theology degrees.
The University of Notre Dame has no record of him having been enrolled.
UC Berkeley did not respond by press time regarding Post’s purported Ph.D in Political Science.
Olson and others now understand why Post seem confused at times — he couldn’t keep track of which lies he’d told to whom. He’d tell of an upcoming important business dinner, but when later asked about it, would appear puzzled and say that he had been elsewhere doing something else entirely. The next day, he’d revert to the first story and regale the same person with details from the dinner he’d originally advertised, then denied having.
Post has displayed to friends a photograph of himself in a flight suit near a military helicopter, his face covered by a helmet and visor. It is actually a military pilot named Capt. David Woods.
He apparently maintains multiple Facebook pages under different identities, both male and female. One, in the name of “Robert Duncan,” features a photo of 911 conspiracy theorist Sheldon Lankford.
Post had also told friends he planned to purchase the McKinleyville Press, to “put it back on its feet,” and the Arcata Eye as well. No mention of any Eye purchase had ever been mentioned to this reporter.
(The elaborate matrix of deception is reminiscent of serial fraudster and former Humboldt State Director of University Advancement John Sterns, who, until caught in March, 2001, had assiduously falsified everything from large donations to meal vouchers. He was eventually convicted of fraud and ordered to repay the university $124,000.)
Team Berrypicker will survive, but under a different name, possibly the Rutabros. Team members have further bonded after being exploited and lied to by Post.
“Now that he’s fucked over most of the team, we’re carrying on without him,” Cordova said cheerfully.
Some of those from whom Post had borrowed money now realize that loans they provided Post were probably used to repay other debts rather than used for whatever ostensible need he’d related. Some have have written off his debts to them and told him so, since repayment would likely require a lie or scam to be perpetrated on a new victim.
“Keep the $200,” wrote one friend in a text to Post, “as it was probably borrowed from someone else.”
Silvernale said that providing Post money made the friends abettors in some unknown but surely unseemly scam, ensnaring them in “an unwitting crime syndicate.”
The exploited ladies are in emotional recovery, some offering each other mutual support.
Said one, “As former female associates link up, I hope we can focus on being survivors rather than victims of the incredible scammer.”
She would like to convene all the female victims for a gabfest and more. “I do think that we could have one hell of a party,” she said. “If we could get the guest of honor to show up, we could even have a little roast.”
A few have offered to assist him with his latest malady, the testicular cancer, and personally perform a preventive castration.
The Secret Of The Suit
Of all Santa Claus’s secrets, one was hiding in plain sight — the story behind his cheery red and white garb. The hundreds of children Kris Kringle dandled on his knee in Jacoby’s Storehouse last December had expressed their Christmas gift wishes perched on a stolen Santa costume.
When Post first hired himself out as Santa in 2011, he went to Eureka’s Costume Box. There, Denise Riles, who owns the shop with her mother, allowed him to rent a complete Santa outfit for $200. She even let him slide on immediate payment. “We’re not going to make a big deal of it,” Riles said. “Because of the kids, and Christmas.”
But after two weeks, Post was nowhere to be seen. She sent him a message asking, “Johnny, are you buying the suit?”
“I never heard back,” Riles said. “Finally, six months later, he comes in and hands me $100.” The suit had been damaged, with the pants’ seat blown out.
She replaced the gloves, repaired the rip, fluffed his wig and allowed him to continue to use the suit for the 2012 Christmas season. She even lined up a Santa gig for him at the Red Lion Inn.
Once again, Post didn’t pay, though he did send Riles an apology letter.
She made no further effort to recover the garment, writing it off so that Arcata could have its Santa.
“We’re not going to be the bitches that ruin Christmas for the kids,” she explained. “Money is just money, he’s crazy, and we’re never going to get it back.” ¥¥
(Kevin Hoover is the Editor of the Arcata Eye, arcataeye.com. Used with permission.)