A Fair Con?

Glenn Hester takes the principles of magic & applies them to law enforcement

By Robert J. Kicklighter  |   Oct 16, 2017
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The easiest way to steal a man’s wallet is to tell him you’re going to steal his watch.
― Leigh Bardugoh

It’s October again! Fresh, crisp air and colorful leaves falling from the trees, mellow mornings filled with delicate mists as the sun glistens across the damp, wet grass, and windy nights with clear skies usher in fall festivals and family fun.

It’s that time of year when the lights and sounds of carnivals fill communities across the land and children relish in the excitement of cotton candy, rides, games, and pop, pop, popcorn!

But, with this excitement, come those who seek to cheat customers of the midway out of their fortunes, stealing their money using fraudulent practices disguised as games of skill. Fortunately, for many years, there was one police officer dedicated to stopping this deception and ensuring customers would not become victims of the midway.

Cons at the Fair

On a warm summer night, sitting at his daughter’s kitchen table, Glenn Hester’s eyes stared off in the reflection of his years as a Glynn County Police Officer investigating carnival fraud. Savoring the taste of a warm cup of coffee, the mild-mannered retired police officer gently combed through his powered-white hair and began reciting story after story of trickery and deceit at the carnivals he investigated as a police officer. Slipping in a smile or two, he fondly remembered times where he interrupted carnival games designed to cheat players and take their money.

In 1983, Glenn Hester began his law enforcement career joining the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in Monticello, N.Y. Five years later, Hester moved back to Georgia, his home state, and joined the Glynn County Police Department located in Brunswick, Ga.

Over the next 30 years, Hester devoted his time to working with children as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer, and carnival game fraud and inspection officer. Also, Hester, a certified instructor for the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council in Georgia, facilitated courses covering carnival and game fraud at various training sites throughout the state. Many of his students described his classes as unconventional and unorthodox, which made them both educational and entertaining.

Fond of magic throughout his childhood, Hester was captivated by a Franciscan Priest who taught him sleight of hand tricks. After being introduced to these methods, Hester’s appreciation of magic carried over to his law enforcement career.

While working as a police officer, Hester investigated numerous claims of fraud resulting from several types of scams designed to fool intended victims. Intrigued by these scams, Hester researched various con games and discovered that many criminals used principles of magic to dupe their victims. From that point on, Hester was determined to educate law enforcement and members of the community on these various means of deception.

Hester then realized the best resource to accomplish this goal was to publish his research to illustrate various deception and con tactics commonly used by criminals.

In his first book, Police Magician, Hester demonstrates how to use magic and puppets for crime prevention presentations. Further, Police Magician is a culmination of Hester’s years of experience as a law enforcement officer and a magician. The book focuses on home security, alcohol and drug abuse, con games, carnival game fraud, peer pressure, safety, and community involvement.

In 2009, Hester authored his second book, Carnival cop: Investigating and inspecting carnival game fraud. Here, Hester differentiates between chance games (gambling) and skill games. Also, Hester provides details on the carnival games that are designed to cheat players and the games that are genuinely skill games. Finally, Hester demonstrates how chance games violate Georgia’s gambling law, and deceptive games violate Georgia’s theft by deception law.

To further illustrate forms of dupery, Hester completed his final book in 2011 titled, Glenn Hester’s Deceptive Performances: A police magician’s ledger of con games and scams. In this last book, Hester writes:

There are deceptive performances every day in our lives. Many will remember magic shows they attended. Deception in this art form is acceptable, but not in criminal activity. Con games have been around for many years.

You may have pulled a few cons in your day. As a child, I feigned sickness on days that I did not study and prepare for tests. As an adult, I pulled a few cons on my wife to save face in certain situations.

Deceptive performances are shown in many aspects of life. They can occur on the street, in your home, through media, or any other place where someone has contact with you. What I hope to achieve with this book, is to share a few of the many confidence crimes that are played out around the state. Some are old classics, while others are set to the times of our era.

As I have told many in lectures, with the con game, you do not always know the intention of the con artist. If someone came up to you, pointed a gun or knife at you, and demanded your money, you would know their intentions. It is not easy to see the intention of a con artist when you do not know they are getting ready to steal from you.

Con artists take you into their confidence and get you to play along until you realize the con. It is only afterward that you know you were taken in by a scam. Scams come in many forms, and the scam artist plays the part so well, you are left feeling sick that you fell for such a flim-flam. The sad part is, many do not report this to the local authorities. They are ashamed. When they don’t expose it, the crime goes unpunished, and the offenders are left to take others down the road. (pg. 1)

In Glenn Hester’s Deceptive Performances, Hester covers six common scams and prevention techniques to reduce the chance of victimization from these crimes. Some of these scams include street scams, home scams, and crimes against the elderly.

As the conversation continued at the kitchen table, Hester got up out of his seat, still looking off into the past, and freshened up his cup of coffee. He then turned and said, “Do you know that it is against the law for an officer to knowingly allow games on the midway that he knows are designed to cheat people?”

The determination on Hester’s face exemplified his dedication to probing these types of crimes.

Hester then continued describing times when he inspected carnivals in Glynn County. Hester discussed various deceptive games, such as the balloon games where carnies place split shot in the head of the dart and file down the tip of the dart to make it almost impossible to bust a balloon. Further, Hester pointed out that many balloons are not appropriately filled with air and are not transparent enough to bust when struck by a dart.

Another game Hester talked about was the Long-Range Basketball game. Hester pointed out that the carnies bend the rims for this contest into an oval shape, and the balls are filled with extra air to give them more bounce. Hester said he made the carnies post signs warning players the rims are not regulation.

Hester, now full of energy from the pride of knowing he prevented years of fraud from occurring in Glynn County, laughed. “After I busted several of those guys and cleaned up our fair, that crooked carnival owner never returned to our community.”

Hester’s dedication to the citizens of Glynn County is beyond reproach and appreciated by the public.

Some of Hester’s proudest moments include the time when he was invited on America’s Dumbest Criminals to discuss carnival game fraud, and when Bob Pittman, former chief of the Glynn County Police Department, nominated him for the Governor’s Public Safety Award for his research, instruction, inspection, and investigation into carnival game fraud.

Hester now resides on St. Simons Island, Ga., and lives a quiet, peaceful life. Now and then, he packs up his props and conducts training at a local college or event. But, for the most part, he spends his days chasing his grandkids and enjoying his retirement. When that fall air creeps across the Atlantic Ocean into his Glynn Haven community, Hester can still hear the sounds of the midway and laughter of the children as they rush to their favorite carnival ride.

Hester’s books can be purchased on Amazon and at policemagic.com.

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Robert J. Kicklighter

Robert J. Kicklighter

Robert J. Kicklighter is an experienced educator with a background in criminal law instruction, law enforcement, security administration, and high-performance management. Kicklighter has a PhD. in Public Safety, Forensics, and Homeland Security and a master’s in Criminal Justice. He was the 2002 DUI Officer of the Year. He is a senior Georgia POST instructor and is currently a public safety instructor at Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and a criminal law professor at Strayer University and Savannah Technical College.
Robert J. Kicklighter

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