Local Man Alerts Authorities to “Fonzie Scheme”

Arthur Fonzarelli, originator of the "Fonzie Scheme."

LEWISTON – Federal marshals arrested financial advisor Douglas T. Sanborn, 51, of Dedham yesterday on charges that he bilked investors out of thousands of dollars through an elaborate “Fonzie Scheme.”

An FBI source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said they were tipped off to the scam by Leland McCaron, 82, of North Turner.

“I remember hearing about that guy, Ernie Danoff, or whatever his name is, on the news yesterday. Or maybe it was three years ago,” said McCaron, a retired landscaper. “And when this guy Sanford called me up saying I’d made some money, I figured it was one of them Fonzie schemes.”

First invented by, and named for, Arthur Fonzarelli from the TV sitcom “Happy Days” (1974-1984), the “Fonzie Scheme” involves gradually gaining the trust of investors by having a disadvantaged background and protecting them from gang violence.  Once an investor’s trust is gained, the con artist lives in an apartment over their garage for very little rent.

Other versions of the scam involve wearing a leather jacket, riding a motorcycle, and saying “Heeeeyyy” a lot in order to gain an unfair advantage in attracting capital from female investors.

Sanborn’s attorney, Norman Linklater, said he is client maintains his innocence. “He doesn’t even know what the hell a ‘Fonzie Scheme’ is, and neither do I,” he said. “If they meant Ponzi Scheme, that would be one thing. But my client has never even seen ‘Happy Days.'”

Prosecutors tell a different story. Sources close to the investigation say Sanborn and his associates avoided detection by orchestrating the whole operation from the men’s restroom of a local drive-in restaurant.

“That’s ludicrous,” protested Linklater. “You name me one drive-in restaurant that’s been in business in the last 30 years.”

Informed that an establishment named Val’s Drive-In is currently open for business on Sebattus Street in Lewiston, Linklater said, “Oh, for Christ’s sake. What the hell is wrong with you people?”

-30-

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