I was awestruck and amazed to read your cover story on “Stephanie” (“Deconstructing Stephanie,” 4/30). I am one of her victims. About three months ago, a woman came to my door at work near Capitol Hill. She was pregnant and spotting, her sister was at work, and she was in charge of watching her sister’s child for the afternoon. She said that she must have hurt herself at work that morning lifting boxes, and now she needed money to get a prescription for herself and to catch a cab to pick up her sister’s child at school. Could I please help? Of course I could, I would, and I did. Not only did I press $40 into “Stephanie”‘s greedy little fingers, but I drove her to her aunt’s apartment about five blocks away (to save cab fare).

I drove back to work, and then my mind began churning. Did I know this woman? No! Why had I just given her money? Because I was doing the right thing, I told myself. At that point, I decided I was being suckered only if “Stephanie” never came back to pay me back.

Well, she came back, only proving the genius of her scheme. She takes money from you not once, but twice. She takes your money and then comes back to take more. She had only a $100 bill (she said), and the cabbie couldn’t break it. She needed a little more money for the cab fare, and then she would come back to pay me back. I stopped her. I didn’t trust her anymore. My boss had come back, seen her, and told me not to trust her and that it was all a scam.

Stephanie and I wrestled over the cab door she tried to slam in my face to make her getaway. A cop drove by. We flagged him down. Now my entire office was outside watching the scene. As it worked out, Stephanie was allowed to leave of her own volition. The officer questioned her, and she claimed to have no money on her (never mind the $100 bill she couldn’t break).

Since there was no crime committed (other than theft by trickery which was apparently not serious enough), and the only way the officer could make a positive ID of this woman was by arresting her and fingerprinting her, she was free to leave after receiving a proverbial slap on the wrist. Since he couldn’t arrest her, he was able only to ask her what her name and address were. She could have told him she was Smokey Bear, and he would have had to accept that.

The rage I felt that day, watching this viper of a woman abusing the system that protects the aggressor’s rights and leaves the victim helpless and angry, has not abated. I don’t give a shit if she is a drug addict, don’t care about her family life, her abusive childhood, or whatever the more liberal among us want to tout as justification for her behavior. She lives off the kindness of others and only offers back a smile when she successfully robs you of your money.

All that she and others who follow her path have done is to force doors shut in my face when I genuinely have a problem. Good luck to anyone out there who actually has an emergency and needs help, because you’ve been fucked by this woman’s actions. I know I now don’t trust people coming to my door. And I know that I will probably be turned away even if I have a genuine emergency.

So thank you, Stephanie, thank you for making everyone’s worst fears about strangers seem true. I wish I could force shame on your conscience. And you’d better hope I never see you again.

Arlington, Va.

via the Internet