Busted! Scamwich Artist Unmasked by Local Restaurant Owners

Categories: Restaurant News

Update: (Wednesday, October 24) Read how the Scamwich Artist returned to one of the restaurants mentioned in this report the day after it was published.

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Local chef and restaurateur Mike Johnson didn't just fall off the Sysco truck yesterday. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, the man has mapped out a restaurant résumé that begins when he was fifteen and spans two continents; on this one alone he has toiled in kitchens from Napa to LA, Chicago (Charlie Trotter's) to New Orleans (Emeril's). On the home front, Johnson has had a hand in establishments as diverse as French-inspired Roxane, Spanish tapas joint BARcelona, Greek small-plates hotspot Momos, Cajun/Creole/Cuban funhouse Boogaloo and the reincarnated dessert café Cyrano's.

And yet, after more than two decades in the culinary trenches, Johnson, who recently opened the Olivette barbecue joint Sugarfire Smokehouse (9200 Olive Boulevard, Suite 114; 314-997-2301), still has new and colorful battle stories to tell.

Such as the one that transpired last month, which Gut Check has taken the liberty of titling...

The Scamwich Artist

On September 26, Johnson opened his newest venture, Sugarfire Smokehouse. On the evening of the 27th, as he was cleaning up after a bustling second day of business, his phone rang. On the other end of the line was an unsatisfied customer who said the restaurant had botched his order when he'd stopped in to pick up lunch.

Specifically, the caller said the sides he'd chosen to accompany his sandwiches had been "all messed up." He demanded compensation.

"This guy tells me, 'I was in there earlier and got a carry-out order,'" Johnson recounts. "It was busy, so I didn't remember him."

Johnson was also puzzled. The man said he'd ordered three grilled-chicken sandwiches. But there's no chicken sandwich on Sugarfire's menu.

"Are you sure you didn't have the turkey?" Johnson says he asked.

No, the caller insisted, he'd ordered grilled-chicken sandwiches.

"Are you sure you're calling the right place?" Johnson persisted. "I don't have chicken, and I don't have a grill here."

At this point, Johnson says, the caller corrected himself. "It was the turkey sandwich," he said.

In spite of the dubious details, Johnson agreed to compensate the man for the mixup and told him to come by after lunchtime the next day.

Later that same evening, Natasha Creel and Emily Matthes, owners of one of Johnson's previous projects, Roxane (12 North Meramec Avenue, Clayton; 314-721-7700), stopped in to have a look around their friend's new place. When they overheard Johnson telling his executive chef about the strange phone conversation, they couldn't help interrupting.

The scenario, you see, sounded uncannily familiar. A man had been alleging similar snafus and demanding compensation from other area restaurants -- including Roxane.

What's more, Creel and Matthes said, thanks to their phone's caller ID they knew the man's name: Was Johnson's unsatisfied customer by any chance a Mitchell Kerman?

Johnson checked his caller ID log.

Location Info

Sugarfire Smoke House

9200 Olive Blvd., Olivette, MO

Category: Restaurant

Roxane

12 N. Meramec Ave., Clayton, MO

Category: Restaurant

Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium

1170 S. Big Bend Blvd., Richmond Heights, MO

Category: Restaurant

Frida's Deli

622 N. and South Road, University City, MO

Category: Restaurant

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31 comments
db__
db__

I really feel posting his photo and real name is way over the top here.  Internet vigilantes will prank call his employer and he'll lose his job.  The punishment doesn't fit the crime.  I also felt the "shoved him against a wall" part of taking his photo would have the individual arrested for assault if a cop saw it.

jvorel2
jvorel2

I really love this story. Good for the business owners, publically shaming the person trying to take advantage of them. What other recourse do they have?

mlr2
mlr2

trey.mahaffey-It's only libel if it's not true

asgianino
asgianino

I know the Scamwitch Artist. He has obvious issues. He always reminded me if Rain Man. He clearly has autism.

greg
greg

sweet toupee

trey.mahaffey
trey.mahaffey

just a bit of advice... you might want to remove the name and picture of the man in question.  Without proof this article is just libel.

xomuireanneox
xomuireanneox

@bitchywaiter I was about to say maybe he needed the free food but... a lawyer? That's just greedy...

ahoy
ahoy

Wait... so the restaurant owner brags about pushing the guy up against a wall? Isn't that a worse crime than sandwich refund fraud? And isn't he opening himself up to a lawsuit, as well?

PintSizeBakery
PintSizeBakery

@stlmag_relish @kzieff @ianfroeb Someone else tried to get us with the same dealio!

irobinson
irobinson

@ianfroeb awesome. my wife remembers that guy from years ago at Fitz's pulling that w/ a never-placed order of 3 chicken club sandwiches.

Kevin Angel
Kevin Angel

He wasn't even smart enough to dial *67? Doucheington

Bill Courtney
Bill Courtney

As the owner of Cheese-ology Macaroni & Cheese (and a first time business owner), I was taken my first week in business by someone for $8 doing this, and he walked into the store to demand his refund. Since then, I've received calls about every two months by someone claiming bad food or service. It is usually pick-up, by cash, the day before. Of the 15ish calls I've received, only two were legitimate. Those two customers are now satisfied return customers. For other business owners, computerized POS systems are the only way to make sure these are legitimate. My managers know that they are to never issue refunds. They are to take all information, give it to me, and I will investigate. BTW, I've had men, women, teens and older folks try to scam me. Get a life people.

Timothy Gatti
Timothy Gatti

^It would appear that he's an accountant. And pulling crap like this makes life difficult when real customers have real bad experiences. And any intelligent business owner should demand a receipt, etc. from the "customer" before providing compensation.

Double_J_STL
Double_J_STL

@guerrillastreet @gutcheckstl I've posted on Facebook....pretty sad. By the way, I ordered a pizza from GStreet and it was messed up.

mikeywehling
mikeywehling

@ianfroeb my girlfriend @outlawson says this guy came into her work,Bissingers cwe, & pulled this scam a year ago on two to-go cheesecakes

Tobie Blackford
Tobie Blackford

That is a beautiful piece of jounalism there. HA! Love that they added his pic. lol. What pisses me off more than the dude being a total tool, is he's a lawyer? Really? I doubt he's exactly rich, but he's not exactly poor either. He can afford to pay for his damn food. What a POS. So glad RFT just ratted that bastard out.

Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown

People do this all the time at my work. It gets old fast.

Jennifer Ickes
Jennifer Ickes

For someone that does it so often, you think he'd be better at it.

jzavist
jzavist

Call his place of employment back in a week and see if he's still employed there . . .

iwilleathops
iwilleathops

@EvanBenn @ianfroeb WOW, hilarious story. What a cheap piece of shit!

C_Schwarz
C_Schwarz

@ianfroeb that was good stuff!

LKeys
LKeys

@db__ What he did was a crime he is lucky that they didn't press charges- don't do the crime if you can't deal w/ the repercussions!

ianfroeb
ianfroeb

@mikeywehling have her drop me a line at ian DOT froeb AT riverfronttimes DOT com -- thx!

keepinitreal
keepinitreal

He's an accountant. And not a very good one either. Personal experience.

kzieff
kzieff

@stlmag_relish @ianfroeb I was had but not by that guy and it was just a convo with a friend in the biz and we put two and two together

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